If you’re just starting out, you might not have a relationship with a bank or credit union because you deal in cash or use a prepaid card. If someone pays you with a personal check, there's no need to fear. You do have options for getting the check cashed, though most of them will cost you. Just be ready to provide solid identification such as a driver's license or passport.
Sign the check over to a third party who does have a bank account -- a parent, for instance. Endorse the check on the back, and beneath your signature write, “Pay to the order of,” followed by the first and last name of the new payee. At the bank, that person signs the back and cashes the check.
Call the person's bank, which is listed on the front of the check, to see whether the institution will cash it. If the bank will cash it for you, expect to bring more than one form of identification. The bank might charge you for the service since you don’t have an account.
Investigate grocery and retail stores until you find one that will cash your check. If you’re calling ahead, make sure to ask specifically whether the store will cash a personal check -- not just a business check -- and find out if there is a limit on the size of the check they’ll cash. Kmart, for instance, cashes personal checks only up to $400. You will be charged a fee.
Visit check cashing stores, which specialize in cashing checks. They usually charge a flat fee plus a percentage of what the check is worth. The FDIC reports that the percentage is usually between 1 and 4 percent, so call around beforehand to get the best deal.
You will likely need to join a loyalty program in order to cash a check at a grocery or retail store. The store’s loyalty program entitles you to special discounts.
If all else fails, you can use the check to open an account at a bank, though the bank will probably put a temporary hold on some or all of the check’s funds. Shop around for a bank before you open an account. No true uniformity in fees and policies exists between banks, so ask what it takes to open the account, as well as the location of branches and the bank’s ATMs (you want convenient locations), fees and balance requirements.
Banks do not have to cash a third-party check, and those that do may place a hold on funds in the account of the person helping you get your money. Those funds will be unavailable for the third party to spend.
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