A common reason a bank account is frozen comes from unpaid debts you owe, but a bank also can freeze your account if it feels keeping it open would create liability for the institution, or if its policies allow for it. Regardless of the reason your account is frozen, you have several options for cashing your check. Some options are free, but others could cost you a few dollars. When considering your options, you’ll want to decide which method is the most convenient and cost-effective for you.
Talk to Your Bank
Bank accounts can be frozen for more than one reason. In some instances, such as a bank-initiated freeze, you may not be able to access your account for any reason. However, if your bank account has been frozen to pay an outside debt, known as a levy, you may be able to deposit your check and access the funds. Most levies served to your bank by court order or government agency, such as the IRS, are one-time levies.
This means the bank can only freeze what’s in your account at the time the levy is processed. Whatever you deposit after a one-time levy may not be held and applied toward your debt. If you want to deposit the check into your regular account, ask your bank why the account is frozen, and if it is a continuous freeze or a one-time levy. A continuous or permanent freeze will capture future deposits after the freeze takes place, so you won’t want to cash the check at your bank if your account is in this status.
Cash at Payer's Bank
If your check is written from a local bank, you can also visit any branch from which the check is drawn and cash it there. Some banks may charge a fee to cash the check if you don’t have an account with the institution, and you may also have to present two or more forms of ID. In this instance, it is common for the bank to ask for your driver’s license or other state-issued ID, plus a credit card, passport or military ID to confirm your identity. The bank will also have an ink pad ready and ask for your fingerprint on the check.
Open a New Account
Opening a new account at a different bank is an option for cashing your check. However, depending on how much the check is for and the bank’s policies, you may have to deposit a portion of your check and wait for it to clear before the new bank will let you have the all the money. Federal law requires banks to offer at least $200 of your deposit by the next business day. Banks set their own policies on the availability of funds in excess of a $200 deposit, so depending on these policies, it could be between one and nine business days before you can have the rest. If you’re considering a new account, ask the bank about its funds availability policies for new customers before you make a decision.
Use a Check Cashing Service
Cashing your check with a check-cashing service is another option, but you will pay extra for the convenience of using the service. Some retailers, such as local grocery and Walmart stores, cash printed (not hand-written) payroll and government checks for just a few dollars. You can also take your check to a store that specializes in check-cashing, however these companies may charge a fee that is equal to a percentage of the check you’re cashing, plus a flat fee for using the service.
- IRS: Internal Revenue Manual 5.11.4 -- Bank Levies
- Office of the Comptroller of Currency: Expedited Funds Availability Act
- Walmart Money Center: Walmart Check Cashing
- Republic Bank: Check Cashing Options
- Better Business Bureau. "Collection Laws & Exemptions by State." Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.
- Internal Revenue Service. "What is a Levy?" Accessed Jan. 16, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "How Do I Get a Levy Released?" Accessed Jan. 16, 2020.
- Federal Student Aid. "Collections." Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Garnishing Federal Benefits." Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.
With a background in taxation and financial consulting, Alia Nikolakopulos has over a decade of experience resolving tax and finance issues. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and has been a writer for these topics since 2010. Nikolakopulos is pursuing Bachelor of Science in accounting at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.