The advent of online banking and automatic account updates has made banking processes more efficient and easy to access. While different banks have different policies and procedures for things such as cashing personal checks, today's banking industry offers a number of ways to effectively give and receive money in a timely and convenient fashion. Keep in mind that independent neighborhood banks may have more flexibility than large national branches which have to strictly abide by corporate guidelines.
Generally speaking, your bank will allow you to cash a personal check if you already have enough funds in your account to cover any bounces.
Cashing a Personal Check
If you attempt to cash a personal check at a bank where you have an account, you're likely to encounter one of three scenarios. If the personal check is from an account in the same bank you where have an account, cashing should be automatic, with no holds or conditions. When the personal check is from a different bank, but you have overdraft protection, a line of credit or enough funds in your account to cover the check, many banks will consent to cash it on the spot should it bounce. If you don't have enough funds in your bank equal to the amount of the personal check, your bank may require that you deposit the check, rather than cash it. You'll be required to wait for a specified number of days until the funds are verified and transferred. This is often the case with out-of-state personal checks or large checks.
Options for Getting Your Money
It can be frustrating to not get instant access to a personal check you're trying to cash through your own bank. There are a few compromise solutions you may be able to negotiate with your bank to get your funds faster. First, ask the bank teller if he is willing to call the bank the personal check was written from and verify that the account is valid and that the funds exist. While it isn't a surefire protection for the bank, if you're a regular customer and the other party's bank can verify the legitimacy of the account, your bank may be willing to make an exception. Next, you can check with the bank to clarify when the funds will be available so you at least have an indication of when you will get your money. The time may vary based on the location of the issuing bank and the check amount, usually ranging from two to 10 business days. Lastly try asking for a partial release of funds. Sometimes a bank is willing to advance you a portion of the check amount while waiting for it to clear.
If a personal check was written from an account of a bank that has a branch in your vicinity, go to that location, rather than your own bank, and cash the check there. A bank or a credit union might charge you a fee to cash that check if you are not an account holder with that institution.
Why Banks Have Check-Cashing Rules
Banks have check-cashing policies in place to avoid fraud and to help protect their customers. If you find personal check cashing rules too prohibitive or restrictive, consider using other financial transfer methods. Wire transfer, online banking and financial platforms, and account transfers all can provide more immediate access to cash. For example, you might ask the person instead to pay you by a method such as PayPal or Venmo. You also might request that in place of a personal check, the individual sending you money secure a cashier's check or money order instead, which can make cashing easier.
Lisa McQuerrey has been an award-winning writer and author for more than 25 years. She specializes in business, finance, workplace/career and education. Publications she’s written for include Southwest Exchange and InBusiness Las Vegas.