With the government stimulus program soon sending out checks to those who qualify, the question arises about where to cash your check if you don’t have a checking account and don’t want to pay high fees.
According to a 2017 FDIC study, about 25% of the U.S. population is either unbanked or underbanked. If you’re one of the many people who don’t or can’t open a bank account, check cashing can be more difficult and expensive.
The good news is that your stimulus check will be a government-issued check. That makes a big difference when it comes to the number of places that should be willing to cash your check.
But even if you’re looking to cash a non-government check, you have options. Keep reading to learn how to find the best places for check cashing near you.
What Are Your Best Check Cashing Options?
There are usually a couple of options when it comes to cashing a check at a bank or retailer. One option is to pay a fee, which may be a flat rate or a percentage of the check’s amount.
Another option is to deposit the funds onto a prepaid card. The bank will cash the check but instead of giving you the cash, it goes onto a prepaid card that you can use anywhere. These cards are usually not free, though. There may be a flat fee, per transaction fee, or a monthly fee. The latter is more common.
Here are 5 of the best places to cash a check if you don’t currently have a checking account with a bank.
1. Local Bank Or Credit Union
If you don’t have a checking account and someone gives you a personal check, one of the first places you might think of for cashing it is a bank. But you probably aren’t aware that the bank will charge a fee to cash your check.
When looking for a bank to cash your check, start with the issuing bank. You can find out who the issuing bank is by looking at the check. Go to that back and ask how to cash the check without incurring a fee. Believe it or not, some banks will charge a fee even if they are the issuing bank.
You can also look for a local credit union if you don't want to use a bank or if it's more convenient.
As we mentioned earlier, because all stimulus checks will be government-issued, almost any bank will cash them. They know the government is good for it. But whether you're charged a fee or not is completely up to the bank.
Check cashing is available inside every Walmart store at the customer service desk or Money Services center. And Walmart is one of the most inexpensive places to cash a check. For checks up $1,000, the maximum fee is $4 and there is an $8 maximum fee for checks over $1,000.
Walmart also has an online cash checking service. With this option, your money will be loaded onto a Walmart MoneyCard. There’s no issuance fee for the Walmart MoneyCard and you can begin using your funds immediately. There’s typically a monthly maintenance fee for MoneyCard, but Walmart is waiving the fee for new MoneyCard customers through June 30th, 2020.
If you’re already a PayPal user, the Cash a Check service inside their mobile app may be one of your most convenient ways to cash a check.
To use their Cash a Check service, you’ll need to set up a PayPal Cash Plus account (if you don’t already have one). Once your account is set up, you can scan your check right inside the app. PayPal says that most checks receive approval within 3-5 minutes.
Once your check has been approved, you can get your money credited to your PayPal account in minutes. Their standard check cashing fee is 1% for payroll and government checks with a pre-printed signature and 5% for all other checks (with a $5 minimum fee).
Or if you don’t need the money right away, you can elect to have your funds credited to your PayPal account within 10 days for absolutely no fee.
4. Transact By 7-Eleven
Anyone can cash a check using the Transact by 7-Eleven mobile app. For standard mobile check loading, there are no fees at all. With this options, funds will be available within two days. However, if you need to access your money faster, you can choose expedited mobile check cashing for 2% of the check amount or $5.00, whichever is greater.
Once the funds clear, they will be available on a prepaid card. You can use your 7-Eleven Transact card anywhere that Debit Mastercard is accepted. Plus, you can make fee-free cash withdrawals at most 7-Eleven ATMs.
You can even set up online billpay with the Transact card. However, like most prepaid cards, there is a monthly fee. With 7-Eleven, it is $5 per month. Also, if you don’t already have the prepaid card, you’ll have to wait for it to be mailed to you.
PLS is a financial services company that has over 300 locations in 12 states. They offer check cashing and money order cashing in addition to prepaid debit cards and tax preparation services.
If you live near a PLS, you can cash your check for 1% + $1. Another advantage to PLS is that they offer 24/7 service. And if you choose to load your check onto one of their prepaid debit cards, you can set up billpay and free reloads.
How to Open A Checking Account to Avoid Check Cashing Fees
There are a lot of benefits to having a checking account. And one of those benefits is that it makes it easier to cash a check without incurring fees. A checking account also:
- Indicates that you are financially stable (some credit applications ask if you have a checking account)
- Makes it easier to receive funds from different sources
- Can allow you to receive your check faster because you can set up direct deposit
If you’ve been avoiding opening a checking account because of the fees and high minimum deposit, you don’t have to worry. Plenty of banks now allow you to open a checking account without a minimum deposit and without incurring any monthly fees. Check our round-up of 10+ banks that have no minimum deposit or monthly fees.
Particularly for your government stimulus check, with a checking account, you can receive it through direct deposit. This is the fastest way to get stimulus money into your hands.
Because it is a government check, funds are likely to be available immediately or within a day. That’s unlike personal checks, which can take several days. It also beats many prepaid card options, which can take a couple of days before the money is made available on the card.
If you have several negative marks (like bounced checks or overdrafts) on your banking score, you may have a difficult time opening a regular checking account. But you may still qualify for a second-chance checking account. Here are the best second-chance checking accounts available today.
No matter where you cash your stimulus check, be sure to ask about fees and hold times. For a check that is around $1,000, a $4 to $5 fee is not uncommon. However, by opening a checking account, you should be able to cash your check for free.
If you need to fix your banking score before you can open a checking account, here are the steps you can take to do that. Or, if you’re ready to open a new account today, here are some of your best checking account options.
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.