It’s tax refund season, and if you’re anything like the average American, you’re excited to get your hands onto your refund check.
But how are you supposed to cash your tax refund check if you don’t have a bank account? Using a check-cashing outlet can involve expensive fees. Plus, it’s risky to walk around with thousands of dollars in cash in the neighborhoods that are often dangerous.
Want to avoid the excessive fees and keep your cash safe? Here are few ways to get your tax refund when you don’t have a bank account.
Direct Deposit Prepaid Debit Card
The number one way to get your refund check is to open a prepaid debit card account. You can use the prepaid debit card to receive direct deposits from the IRS.
Accounts like Bluebird by American Express and Walmart allow the cardholder to receive direct deposits for $0. Bluebird is available for all U.S. residents age 18 and older. The account also has a family card feature, so you can allow up to four people to access the same account.
Online tax preparers such as H&R Block and TaxSlayer allow filers to open prepaid debit accounts for the express purpose of getting their tax return. These prepaid cards have the same advantage as the Bluebird account mentioned above, but they have higher fees.
Cash a Physical Check Using an App
Another option to consider is using the PayPal app. The PayPal app allows you to deposit your refund check by taking a picture of a physical check. If you want to access the funds right away, you need to pay a 1% fee. However, if you’re willing to wait 10 days, you can get the money for free.
Ingo Money is another app that allows you to cash physical checks. For a 2% fee ($5 minimum), you can have your refund deposited onto an Amazon gift card, a credit card, or any prepaid card. You can also pick up $1,000 or less from a MoneyGram location.
Try Retail Check Cashing
If you don’t want your refund to hit any electronic account, a good option to consider is retail check cashing. These are far less expensive than the check-cashing outlets, and they will generally be a bit safer thanks to lots of video surveillance in the parking lots.
Still, if you’re planning to cash a check, be sure to discreetly tuck the money away and use safety precautions to avoid being a target for theft.
Here are a few major chains that allow you to cash checks:
- Albertsons: Fees vary by location, and they will only cash up to $1,000.
- Kroger: $3 for checks up to $2,000, $5.50 for checks between $2,000 and $5,000.
- Walmart: $4 for checks under $1,000, $8 for checks over $1,000.
Other major grocery outlets such as Safeway, Publix, and Food Lion also cash checks, but fees and limits vary by location.
Open a No-Fee Banking Account
Of course, the easiest way to get your tax refund is to simply open a bank account. That way, you can get the tax refund via direct deposit or you can deposit a physical check for free.
You can open an account in minutes, and then use your bank account information (account number and routing number) to fill out the direct deposit information on your tax return.
Using one of the options outlined above, you can get your tax refund quickly, cheaply, and safely.
Don’t delay getting your refund just because you don’t have a bank account. Take action today so you can get your money back.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.