Cheapest Way to Cash a Personal Check without a Bank Account

When you have a bank account and receive a check, it’s easy. You open up the app and snap some photos. If your bank doesn’t have an app, you take it to the branch and hand it to a teller or use the ATM.

What if you’re one of the many millions of people who are “unbanked” – without a bank account? The answer is trickier.

Here are the ways you cash a check, from cheapest to most expensive:

Even if you have a bank account, you may need access to this cash immediately. When you deposit a check, it can take a couple of days before the funds are available, depending on who the type of check and who issued it. When you cash a check, you get the cash immediately.

Table of Contents
  1. Costco, BJ’s Wholesale, Sam’s Club
  2. The Issuing Bank or Credit Union
  3. Wal-Mart (or Grocery Store)
  4. 7-Eleven
  5. Prepaid Debit Cards
  6. Check Cashing Store

Costco, BJ’s Wholesale, Sam’s Club

None of them cash checks!

One of my favorite stores is Costco and it turns out that Costco does not cash checks. The same holds true for their two wholesale club competitors. BJ’S Wholesale Club and Sam’s Club do not cash checks either of any kind.

What is surprising is that they don’t cash business checks, payroll checks, or even government checks (and obviously personal checks). I thought they’d at least take government checks as they are the safest, but nope!

The Issuing Bank or Credit Union

Go to the bank that issued the check – their information is on the check itself. They can verify the check’s legitimacy, whether funds are available, and will give you cash for a fee. The fee varies from bank to bank.

This is the cheapest option, especially for non-official checks. In some cases, it’s free (sometimes only free if under a certain dollar amount).

For example, Bank of America charges a flat $6 fee to cash one of their checks. Capital One charges $0. M&T Bank will charges you 2% of the check amount with a $3 minimum. Call a local branch to find out their exact fee for your check.

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Wal-Mart (or Grocery Store)

Wal-mart offers in-store check cashing of Payroll checks, Government checks, Tax checks, Cashier’s Checks, Insurance settlement checks, 401(k), retirement distribution checks, and MoneyGram money orders that were purchased at Walmart.

They may cash a two-party personal check up to $200 for a maximum $6 fee, but it’s subject to local laws.

The fees are straightforward: $3 for checks of $1,000 or less and $6 for those above $1,000 and under $5,000.

More details here.


If you have a 7-Eleven nearby and they have a Vcom check-cashing kiosk, you can cash a check there too. The Vcom check-cashing kiosk is an automated touch-screen kiosk that can handle a variety of financial tasks from cashing checks to paying bills.

You can find out more here.

Prepaid Debit Cards

If you are using a prepaid debit card (a.k.a. reloadable debit cards), like Netspend (see how you can get $20 from a referral to NetSpend) or Bluebird by American Express, you may be able to deposit your check as a reload.

To make the transaction, use their mobile app (if they have one) or go to a partner location that lets you perform the reload. If this is a payroll check, consider direct deposit reloads as a way to avoid the reload fee (if you have a direct deposit, it may be worth getting a checking account).

Prepaid debit cards can get expensive, with transaction fees and activity fees, but if you use it wisely it can offer a cheap way to cash checks.

Check Cashing Store

These will be the most expensive option but if you have a personal check and no local bank, it might be the only option.

Cash advance, title loans, payday loan stores – they’re all names for the same type of outfit. Expensive short term loans with high fees and punitive interest rates. They also cash checks.

Whereas Wal-Mart only takes institutional checks, many of these places will take personal checks too. Some will require you get a credit check, since it amounts to a short term loan, while others won’t. Call around to see what the policies and fees are.

A local cash checking place in Maryland charges a flat 10% fee to cash a personal check. They do the work of calling the issuing bank and confirming funds before they cash you out – sometimes you have to get their debit card too. In this store’s process, they need to talk to the person who wrote the check too.

Other places may charge a flat fee with a percentage on top – like $5 per check plus 1%, perhaps with a minimum fee. Call to confirm the details.

Those are the few options you have for cashing a check – as you can see, some are better than others!

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  1. sagar nandwani says

    If the check is a bearer name check and is not endorsed as Payees Account Only, you can visit any branch of the bank on which the check was drawn and present your ID and cash out.

  2. Monty says

    Walmart cashes personally checks(third party checks up to 200 dollars 10% up to 6 dollars it is capped at. Just so everyone knows

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