App version: 0.1.0

Cashing a Check Without a Bank Account, Explained

How to Cash a Check Without a Bank Account
Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li CainUpdated April 3, 2023
Share this article:
Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
If you receive a check and have a bank account, you can simply deposit it into your account or, in some cases, cash it right away at a teller. But if you’re one of the millions of Americans without a bank account, the process isn’t so easy. While it’s possible to cash a check without a bank account, you’ll likely have to jump through a few more hoops and pay a fee to make it happen. Read on to learn about some of the best ways to cash a check without a bank account, including what’s required and special steps you may need to take to cash a large or personal check.

Can You Cash a Check Without a Bank Account?

Yes. It’s typically possible to cash a check without having any type of bank account. However, it’s not as simple or convenient as it would be if you had a checking account at a bank or credit union, and it probably won’t be free.Your options include:
  • Cashing the check at the issuing bank, a major retailer, or a check-cashing store
  • Putting the money onto a prepaid card at an ATM
  • Signing the check over to someone you know and letting them cash it for you at their bank

Is an ID Required to Cash a Check?

Typically, you need to show a valid form of photo ID (such as a driver’s license, passport, or military ID) to cash a check. But there are some exceptions. If you have a bank account, you can deposit a check at an ATM or via mobile deposit into your checking account or savings account without any ID.If you don’t have a bank account, you may be able to cash a check without ID by putting it into a prepaid card at an ATM or via mobile deposit. Or, you might be able to sign the check over to someone you know and trust and have them deposit the check into their account and give you the cash.Recommended: What to Do if You Lose Your Checkbook

Where Can You Cash a Check Without a Bank Account?

If you’re looking to cash a check but don’t have a checking or savings account, here are some options to consider.

Cashing a Check at a Retailer

Some major retailers and grocery chains offer check-cashing services. To use this service, you generally need to provide the endorsed check, a valid ID, and pay a fee. For example, Walmart will cash the following types of checks:
  • Payroll checks
  • Government checks
  • Tax refund checks
  • Cashier’s checks
  • Insurance settlement checks
  • 401(k) disbursement checks
Walmart will not cash personal checks, and charges $4 for any checks up to $1,000 and $8 for checks between $1,001 and $5,000.

Cashing a Check Onto a Prepaid Debit Card

Prepaid cards offer a few different options for cashing checks. You may be able to set up direct deposit so that checks are automatically loaded onto the card. Some cards also come with a mobile app that lets you take a picture of your check to load it onto your card. You may also be able to deposit a check onto the card at an ATM.This convenience doesn't come free, unfortunately. Prepaid cards typically have fees, which may include a monthly fee, ATM withdrawal fees, and reload fees. Also, the checks you load onto the card may not be available right away. You may need to wait as long as 10 days before you can access the money.Recommended: Guide to Setting up Direct Deposits 

Have Someone You Trust Cash Your Check

You may be able to sign over your check to someone you trust who has a bank account, like a relative or close friend, and have them cash the check for you at their bank. To do this, you’ll need to sign the check on the line printed on the back of the check and also write “Pay to the order of" and the person's name. This is known as a "third-party check" and bank rules on accepting them vary, so it’s a good idea to call ahead and ask about the bank’s policies. In some cases, you may need to accompany the person to the bank and show your ID, since you're the one the check was made out to. Your companion will likely also need to show ID and there may be a check-cashing fee.

Cashing a Check at a Check-Cashing Location

There are check-cashing retail outlets that specialize in cashing checks for people who don’t have bank accounts. However, this tends to be the costliest option. Some check-cashing stores require you to pay for a membership or purchase an ID card before they will cash a check for you. In addition, these stores will often charge 1% to 4% of the check’s value as a check-cashing fee and, in some cases, a flat fee on top of that. If you were to use this method to cash a weekly paycheck, the fees could make a significant dent in your wages.

Cashing a Check With the Bank That Issued It

If you bring the check to a branch of the issuing bank (the one listed on the check), a teller may be able to check the account of the person who wrote the check to see if there are sufficient funds available to cover the check. If there are, the bank may be willing to cash the check for you. Not all banks will do this, however, and some may charge a fee. You will also need to show a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, before the bank will cash the check.Recommended: Is Opening a Savings Account Worth It?

Cashing a Large Check Without a Bank Account

The methods listed above should work for most checks. However, if you have a large check, you could run into some challenges. Retailers and supermarkets that cash checks, for example, will often have limits on check amounts, which might be anywhere from $2,000 or $5,000. The cap for personal checks can be significantly lower — often around $200 to $500.If you have a check that's larger than that, your best bet may be to go to the issuing bank or to deposit it onto a prepaid card account.Recommended: What Is Postal Banking?

Downsides of Cashing a Check Without a Bank Account

Cashing a check without a bank account has some significant disadvantages. Here are some to consider.


You generally have to pay a fee to cash a check without a bank account. This is often the case whether you go to a large retailer, a check-cashing store, or even the issuing bank. To limit how much you’ll have to fork over in fees, it’s a good idea to do some research and compare fees for different options before you cash the check.

It’s Hard to Cash Personal Checks 

While you have several choices for cashing a government, payroll, or other type of preprinted check, that’s typically not the case with a personal check. Large retailers that cash checks, for instance, may not cash personal checks at all and, if they do, often have relatively low limits. Check-cashing stores typically won't cash personal checks. Generally, your best chance for cashing a personal check that’s over a few hundred dollars is to go to the issuing bank. Another option is to ask the person that wrote you the check to give you a cashier’s check, money order, or cash instead.

You'll Need Valid ID

Wherever you cash a check, you typically need to provide at least one form of valid photo ID. This is because the institution needs to make sure that you are the one that should receive the funds from the check before they hand over the cash. In some cases, you may need to show two forms of ID.Recommended: What Happens if You Cash a Bad Check?

The Takeaway

It’s possible to cash a check without a bank account but it generally requires some legwork and paying fees. If you’re eligible to open a bank account, you may want to consider doing so. If you can’t qualify for a standard checking account, some banks offer second-chance checking accounts, which are easier to get approved for.Once you have a checking or savings account, you’ll be able to easily deposit checks into your account. If you open a savings account, you’ll also earn interest on your deposits. This helps your money grow over time, especially if you choose a high-yield savings accountIf you’re looking to earn the best return on your savings, Lantern by SoFi can help. With our online banking marketplace, it’s easy to compare high-yield savings accounts based on annual percentage yields (APYs), fees, and balance minimums.Lantern can help you compare online savings accounts and find today’s best rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you cash a check immediately after getting it?
Can you cash a check at an ATM?
Is cashing a check free?
Photo credit: iStock/AndreyPopov

About the Author

Sarah Li Cain

Sarah Li Cain

Sarah Li Cain is a finance writer and podcast producer focusing on topics such as credit, insurance, investing, and real estate. Her work has appeared in major publications such as CNBC Select, Forbes, Redbook, and Business Insider.
Share this article: