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How to cash a check: bank account optional

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Woman holding phone depositing check.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Whenever you get paid via check, you have two options: deposit the check into a bank account, or cash it out. Processing checks is a simple routine for many Americans. But what happens when you don’t have a bank account or you want to explore other options?

When deciding what to do with your check, you’ll want to choose a safe and affordable option, avoiding excess fees and charges. Here, we explain seven ways to cash a check—with or without a bank account:

  1. Deposit in person at your bank
  2. Deposit at your bank’s ATM
  3. Use your bank’s mobile deposit app
  4. Visit the bank that issued the check
  5. Use a prepaid debit card
  6. Cash out at a major retailer that processes checks
  7. Visit a check-cashing company

How to cash a check with your bank

Cashing a check at your bank is the simplest and most cost-effective way to get your money. You’ll avoid fees, and you may enjoy conveniences like being able to deposit the check online and in the comfort of your own home. There are three common ways to cash a check with your bank: in person, via the ATM or using mobile deposit with your bank’s app.

3 ways to cash a check with your bank. With a teller, using a mobile app, at an ATM.

1. In person at your bank

If you have a checking account, the bank will cash out or deposit a valid check for you. The process is fairly simple—just be sure to verify the type of valid ID your bank accepts.

How to cash a check at your bank:

  1. Bring a valid ID: a driver’s license, passport, military ID or school ID may be accepted.
  2. Sign the back of the check in front of the teller (rather than beforehand) for maximum security.
  3. Present the check, your ID and a valid debit card to the teller, if requested.

2. Your bank’s ATM

If you’d prefer not to interact socially with a bank teller, most major financial institutions offer an ATM check deposit option as well. Depending on your bank, you may need to wait a few days for the check to process.

How to cash a check at an ATM:

  1. Insert your debit card into the ATM and enter your PIN, covering the keypad. 
  2. Select the option to deposit a check, and insert your check into the slot as indicated.
  3. Confirm the amount of money on the check and wait for confirmation that it has been deposited.

3. Your bank’s mobile deposit app

Most major banks that have mobile apps now allow you to deposit checks via your smartphone. The specifics will vary by bank, but this process typically involves you taking a picture of the check and verifying the amount on it. 

How to cash a check with mobile deposit:

  1. Endorse the check—this may require you to specify “mobile deposit only” on the back.
  2. Take a clear, well-lit photo of the check on a simple background like a tabletop.
  3. Wait a couple of business days until the check has cleared, and then be sure to shred it.

How to cash a check without a bank account

If you don’t have a bank account, there are still many different ways to cash a check. However, many of these come with hefty processing fees and fines. If you’ve recently received a check and have been considering opening a checking account, now is a great time to do so. 

If a bank account isn’t for you at the moment, you can either cash it with the bank that issued the check, at a major retailer, using a prepaid debit card or—as a last resort—with a check-cashing company. 

Keep in mind that if you don’t have an account with a certain bank or credit union, then they are not obligated to cash your check. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, they may often refuse to cash the check, especially if it’s more than six months old or if you don’t have proper identification.

4 ways to cash a check without a bank account. At the bank that issued the check, using a prepaid debit card, with a major retailer, through a check-cashing company.

4. Bank that issued the check

If you don’t have a bank account of your own, you may choose to cash your check with the bank that issued the check. You can find the name of the bank on the front of the check. You may be charged a fee—however, some states have laws that prevent banks and credit unions from charging you. The process is largely similar to that of cashing it with your own bank.

How to cash a check with the bank that issued it:

  1. Make sure to cash the check inside with a teller, as you won’t be able to use an ATM.
  2. Present a valid ID and endorsed check to the teller, along with a fee if necessary.
  3. Confirm that the account from which the check was written has sufficient funds—if not, the bank is not required to cash it.

5. Prepaid debit cards

Prepaid cards act like gift cards—you load money onto them, and any purchases you make come out of the card’s balance. Many cards allow you to deposit your checks via a mobile app or an ATM. However, these options typically charge a fee, in the form of either a percentage of the total check amount or a monthly service fee.

How to cash a check using a prepaid debit card:

  1. Deposit your check via ATM or mobile deposit through the institution that issued your prepaid card.
  2. Wait until the funds go through before making purchases with the card, unless your existing balance is enough to cover the transaction.
  3. Be on the lookout for fees and ensure you can pay them if needed.

6. Major retailers

Many large national grocer or retail chains offer check-cashing services for business, payroll and even personal checks. These typically come with lower fees than check-cashing companies or banks you don’t have an account with.

How to cash a check at a major retailer:

  1. Inquire if you’ll need to become a member of their rewards program or loyalty program before cashing, which is common and usually free.
  2. Endorse the check in front of the store employee.
  3. Present a valid ID, endorsed check and fee to the store employee.

7. Check-cashing companies 

Check-cashing companies are firms that take a commission from all checks cashed, which can often be 10 percent or more. While convenient—you typically receive the cash immediately—this method is typically very expensive and should be used as a last resort. 

How to cash a check with a check-cashing company:

  1. Inquire about fees up front so you know exactly how much you’ll be paying.
  2. Endorse the check in front of the store employee and present it along with an ID and fee.
  3. Receive the cash, double-counting to ensure the accurate amount.

Safety considerations

To ensure you’re staying safe and cautious when processing a check, consider the following before cashing or depositing it:

  • Make sure the check is legitimate. If you receive a check in the mail that you weren’t expecting or don’t recognize, call the bank that issued it to verify the funds.
  • Never endorse a check until the moment you’re ready to deposit or cash it out. If someone else gets  ahold of the endorsed check, they may be able to cash it out.
  • Never endorse a check with pencil, as it may be erased or modified.
  • If a check is still in your possession after depositing it (like in the case of mobile deposit), keep it in a secure location until it has gone throughthen destroy it.
  • Always cover the keypad when entering your PIN at an ATM.

Whichever method you decide to use for cashing a check, make sure to shop around to find the best deal to ensure that you don’t end up paying unnecessary fines. As a general rule of thumb, cash the check as soon as possible to avoid a bounced check and the fees associated with it. If you’re unsure whether the person who issued the check can cover the funds, it may be worth asking them before attempting to cash out the check. 

Checks don’t typically affect your credit—except if you issue a check for a loan payment and it bounces or returns marked as “insufficient funds.” In this case, you have 30 days to make the payment or else your credit score may take a hit. If you’ve experienced a credit score drop due to a bounced check that you believe may have been a mistake, consider exploring credit help options.


Reviewed by Anna Grozdanov, Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Anna Grozdanov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria but moved to Arizona with her family. Ms. Grozdanov grew up in Arizona and went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude from the University of Arizona with a B.A. in both Philosophy and Psychology. Ms. Grozdanov finished her first year of law school at Pepperdine University School of Law in California, but returned to Arizona where she graduated from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Since graduating from law school, Ms. Grozdanov has worked in Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Probate, and Personal Injury. She has extensive experience advising and working closely with clients and applies these skills at Lexington by helping clients achieve their credit repair goals. Ms. Grozdanov is licensed to practice law in Arizona. She is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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Does Getting Joint Credit Cards Have an Impact on Both Spouses’ Credit?

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couples credit history

While marriage can help you improve your financial situation, it does not automatically mean that you and your spouse will share a credit report. Your credit records will remain separate, and any joint accounts or joint loans that you open will appear on both of your reports. While this can be advantageous, it’s critical to remember that joint account activity can effect both of your credit scores positively or negatively, just as separate accounts do.

Users Who Are Authorized

An authorized user is a user who has been added to an existing credit account and has been granted the authority to make purchases. Authorized users are typically issued a card bearing their name, and any purchases made by them will appear on your statement. The primary distinction between an authorized user and a shared account owner is that the account’s original owner is solely responsible for debt repayment. Authorized users, on the other hand, can always opt-out of their authorized status, although the principal joint account owner cannot.

If your credit score is better than your spouse’s as an authorized user, he or she may benefit from a credit score raise upon account addition. This is contingent upon your creditor notifying the credit bureaus of permitted user activity. If your lender does report authorized users, the activity on your account may have an effect on both you and your spouse. However, some lenders report only positive authorized user information, which means that late payment or poor usage may not have a negative effect on someone else’s credit. Consult your lender to determine how authorized users on your account are treated.

Joint Credit Cards Have an Impact on Your Credit Score

Opening a joint credit account or obtaining joint financing binds both of you legally to the debt’s repayment. This is critical to remember if you divorce or separate and your spouse refuses to make payments, even if previously agreed upon. It makes no difference who is “responsible,” the shared duty will result in both partners’ credit histories being badly impacted by late payments. Regardless of changes in relationship status or divorce order, the creditor considers both parties to be liable for the debt until the account is paid in full.

Accounts Individuals

Whether you’re happily married or divorced, you and your spouse may decide to open separate credit accounts. Most creditors will enable you to transfer an account that was previously joint to one of your names if both of you agree. However, if there is a debt on the account, your lender may refuse to remove your spouse’s name unless you can qualify for the same credit on your own. Depending on your financial status, qualifying for financing and credit on a single income may be tough.

Considerations

While creating the majority of your accounts jointly with your spouse may make it easier to obtain financing (two salaries are preferable to one), reestablishing credit independently following a divorce or separation is not always straightforward. To make matters worse, your spouse may wind up causing significant damage to your credit rating following the separation, either intentionally or through irresponsibility – making the financial situation much more difficult.

Before you rush in and open accounts with your spouse, take some time to discuss the shared responsibility of these accounts and what you and your husband would do in the event of a worst-case situation. These types of financial discussions can be difficult, especially when you rely on items lasting a long time, but a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s credit can go a long way toward keeping your score when sharing an account.

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Should you pay down debt or save for retirement?

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rebuilding credit

While establishing a comprehensive, workable budget is undeniably one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy financial life, it can also be one of the most difficult. For those who are struggling with personal debt, building a budget can be particularly challenging. When the money coming in has to stretch like a contortionist to cover expenses, it can be hard to determine where to focus — and where to trim.

Sometimes, the battle of the budget can come down to a choice between dealing with the present — and thinking about the future. When your income is running out of stretch, do you pay off your existing debt, or do you start saving for retirement? At the end of the day, the solution to that particular dilemma depends on the type of debt you have and how far you are from retiring.

If you have high-interest debt, pay it down

When considering how to allocate your budget, it’s important to understand the different kinds of debt you may have. Consumer debt can be categorized into two basic types: low-interest debt and high-interest debt, each with its own impact on your credit (and your budget).

In general, low-interest debt consists of long-term or secured loans that carry a single-digit interest rate, such as a mortgage or auto loan. Though no debt is the only real form of good debt, low-interest debt can be useful to carry. For instance, purchasing a home with a low-interest mortgage can actually save you money on housing costs if you do your homework and buy a house well within your price range.

High-interest debt, on the other hand, typically has a hefty double-digit interest rate and shorter loan terms, such as that of a credit card or payday loan. High-interest debt is the most expensive kind of debt to carry from month to month and should always be priority number one when building a budget.

To illustrate why you should focus on high-interest debt above everything else, consider a credit card carrying the average 19% APR and a $10,000 balance. If the balance goes unpaid, that high-interest credit card debt will cost $1,900 a year in interest payments alone. Now, compare that to the stock market’s average annual return of 7%, and it becomes clear that you’ll see significantly more bang for your buck by putting any extra funds into your high-interest debt instead of an investment account.

If you are having trouble paying off your high-interest debt, there may be some steps you can take to make it more manageable. For example, transferring your credit card balances from high-interest cards to ones offering an introductory 0% APR can eliminate interest payments for 12 months or more. While many of the best balance transfer cards won’t charge you an annual fee, they may charge a balance transfer fee, so do your research. You’ll also want to make sure you have a plan to pay off the new card before your introductory period ends.

Most balance transfer offers will require you to have at least fair credit, so if your credit score needs some work, you may not qualify. In this case, refinancing your high-interest debt with a personal loan that has a lower interest rate may be your best bet. Make sure to compare all of the top bad credit loans to find the best interest rate and loan terms.

If you’re nearing retirement, start to save

The closer you get to retirement age, the more important it becomes to ensure you have adequate retirement savings — and the more pressure you may feel to invest every spare penny into your retirement fund. No matter your age, however, paying off your high-interest debt should always remain the priority, as it will always provide the best rate of return (as well as likely provide a credit score boost).

Indeed, no matter how tempting it becomes, you should avoid reallocating money you’ve dedicated to paying off high-interest debt to save for retirement. Instead, the focus should be on re-evaluating your budget to find any additional savings you can. To be successful, you will need to make a strong distinction between want and need — and, perhaps, make some tough lifestyle choices.

Though simply eliminating your daily coffee drink won’t magically provide a solid retirement fund, saving a few bucks by homebrewing while also eliminating a pricey cable bill in favor of an inexpensive streaming service — or, better yet, free library rentals — can add up to big savings over the course of the year. The ideal strategy will involve overhauling every aspect of your lifestyle, combining both large and small cuts to develop a lean budget structured around your long-term goals.

Of course, while you should never allocate debt money to your retirement savings, the reverse is also true. It is almost always a horrible idea to remove money from your retirement account before you hit retirement age — for any reason. Withdrawing early means you will be stuck paying hefty fees for withdrawing money early and, depending on the type of account, you may also have to pay significant taxes.

Aim for both goals by improving income

As you take the necessary steps to pay off debt and save for retirement, you may have already stretched the budget so thin it’s practically transparent. In this case, it is time to consider ways to improve your overall income. Increasing the amount you have coming in not only provides extra savings to put toward your retirement, but may also speed up your journey to becoming debt-free.

The easiest solution may be to look for ways to increase your income through your current job; think about taking on additional shifts or overtime hours to earn some extra cash. Depending on your position — and the time you’ve been with the company — consider asking for a pay raise or promotion, as well.

If you do not have options to make more money at your day job, it may be time to find a second job. Look for opportunities that provide flexible schedules that will accommodate your regular job; many work-from-home positions, for example, can easily fit into most work schedules. Doing neighborhood odd jobs, such as babysitting and dog walking, may also provide a solid income boost without interfering with your existing job.

For some, the need to pay off debt and improve retirement savings can be more than just a source of stress — but a hidden opportunity to begin a new career adventure. Instead of being weighed down by yet more work, use the desire to better your budget as a reason to explore the profit potential of a passion or hobby. Starting a small online store, part-time consulting service, or other small business can be a great way to improve your income and your overall happiness.

While it may sound intimidating, starting a side business can be as simple as putting together a professional looking website and doing a little marketing legwork to spread the word. And no, building a website isn’t as scary — or expensive — as it seems, either. A number of the top website builders now offer simple drag-and-drop interfaces perfect for putting together a professional-looking web page in minutes (without breaking the bank).

Learn how you can start repairing your credit here, and carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.



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How does a loan default affect my credit?

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loan default

Nobody takes out a loan expecting to default on it. Despite their best intentions, people sometimes find themselves struggling to pay off their loans. These types of struggles happen for many reasons, including job loss, significant debt, or a medical or personal crisis.

Making late payments or having a loan fall into default can add pressure to other personal struggles. Before finding yourself in a desperate situation, understanding how a loan default can impact your credit is necessary to avoid negative consequences.

30 days late

Missing one payment can further lower your credit score. If you can pay the past due amount plus applicable late fees, you may be able to mitigate the damage to your credit, if you make all other payments as expected.

The trouble starts when you (1) miss a payment, (2) do not pay it at all, and (3) continue to miss subsequent payments. If those actions happen, the loan falls into default.

More than 30 days late

Payments that are more than 30 days past due can trigger increasingly serious consequences:

  • The loan default may appear on your credit reports. It will likely lower your credit score, which most creditors and lenders use to review credit applications.
  • You may receive phone calls and letters from creditors demanding payment.
  • If you still do not pay, the account could be sent to collections. The debt collector seeks payment from you, sometimes using aggressive measures.

Then, the collection account can remain on your credit report for up to seven years. This action can damage your creditworthiness for future loan or credit card applications. Also, it may be a deciding factor when obtaining basic necessities, such as utilities or a mobile phone.

Other ways a default can hurt you

Hurting your credit score is reason enough to avoid a loan default. Some of the other actions creditors can take to collect payment or claim collateral are also quite serious:

  • If you default on a car loan, the creditor can repossess your car.
  • If you default on a mortgage, you could be forced to foreclose on your home.
  • In some cases, you could be sued for payment and have a court judgment entered against you.
  • You could face bankruptcy.

Any of these additional consequences can plague your credit score for years and hinder your efforts to secure your financial future.

How to avoid a loan default

Your options to avoid a loan default depend upon the type of loan you have and the nature of your personal circumstances. For example:

  • For student loans, research deferment or forbearance options. Both options permit you to temporarily stop making payments or pay a lesser amount per month.
  • For a mortgage, ask the lender if a loan modification is available. Changing the loan from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate, or extend the life of the loan so your monthly payments are smaller.

Generally, you can avoid a loan default by exercising common sense: buy only what you need and can afford, keep a steady job that earns enough income to cover your expenses, and keep the rest of your debts low.

Clean up your credit

The hard reality is that defaulting on a loan is unpleasant. It can negatively affect your credit profile for years. Through patience and perseverance, you can repair the damage to your credit and improve your standing over time.

Consulting with a credit repair law firm can help you address these issues and get your credit back on track. At Lexington Law, we offer a free credit report summary and consultation. Call us today at 1-855-255-0139.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.



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