Many Americans cash checks through the bank or credit union where they have an account, either by visiting a teller or depositing the check into an ATM. Those without bank accounts have alternative options to access the funds represented in checks. Fees for such services vary; if you have time, it is wise to shop around to find out where you can retain as much value in the check as possible.
Even if you don't have a bank account, the person or business who wrote you a check does. Look at the check and determine what bank issued it. Visit the bank and ask for it to be cashed. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, this bank will probably cash the check if it is less than six months old, there's enough money in the relevant account and you show proper identification. To save time, call the bank staff and ask about their check-cashing policy and what kind of identification they require.
Check-cashing stores will cash most checks, but charge a fee for the service. This fee may be a percentage of the value of the check. Ask the store what kinds of checks they will accept before traveling to its location. For example, some may restrict their business only to government or business checks and will not accept personal checks.
Large retail chains often offer check-cashing services. Ask at customer service or look for a kiosk in the store. Rates charged by these businesses may be more favorable than using a stand-alone check-cashing store. If you are a repeat user, get to know the retailer's policy for certain times of the year. Some may change, for example, at tax time when business is more brisk. Stores also may increase their check limits during those periods, in order to cash larger-than-anticipated refunds from the Internal Revenue Service.
Prepaid and Mobile Accounts
If you want an alternative to a traditional banking account, consider a mobile or prepaid account. This allows you to deposit money for a fee. U.S. News & World Report notes that Chase offers a prepaid card that allows you to deposit money onto it by depositing a check into a Chase ATM.
Currency Exchange Desks
If you are trying to cash a traveler's check, you can visit a currency exchange location. These currency exchange facilities likely will not cash personal, business or government checks, however.
Catherine Lovering has written about business, tax, careers and pets since 2006. Lovering holds a B.A. (political science), LL.B. (law) and LL.L. (civil law).