If you’re feeling indignant about the fees banks are charging for even the simplest services nowadays, prepare to add more grievances to the list. It may or may not be common knowledge to you, but many banks charge non-customers check cashing fees in exchange for being serviced.
What’s more, banks will only cash a check for a non-customer if the check is issued by that specific bank. We called the top 20 banks in America and spoke with bank tellers and customer service representatives in order to determine their non-customer check cashing fee policies, which we have compiled in an easy-to-read table.
While some banks, like Capital One, Bank of America, and SunTrust have graciously continued their policy of providing this service for free, other banks are profiting by charging anywhere from a percentage of the check to a $10 fee.
Here are the fee policies of the top twenty banks (flat rates apply to business and personal checks unless otherwise specified):
Bank Fee Policy
Bank of America BMO Harris Bank $10 ($50 is the minimum amount you can cash)
BB&T Free under $50; Over 50 a fee of $8 (Regarding business checks, according to a customer rep, the $8 fee can be waived if the issuing company agrees to pay for it).
Capital One Free (Checks of $1,000 and above are more complicated to cash, but still free)
BBVA Compass $7
Fifth Third Bank fee is 1% of the check amount, with a $4 limit.
HSBC Bank KeyBank $7.50
M&T Bank $10
PNC Bank $10
Regions Bank Free under $10, but above $10, 1% of the check amount, with a $2 minimum and a $20 maximum
State Street Bank Free
SunTrust Personal check is free; business check is $7
TD Bank $7
Union Bank $5 fee on a personal check over $100; $5 fee on a business check over $25
U.S. Bank $5
USAA Federal Savings Bank Free
Wells Fargo $7.50
Analyzing the data
Interestingly enough, compared to fees in 2013, some banks have increased their fees, while others have made their policy more affordable for the everyday consumers to cash, such as in the case of personal checks.
2014 fee policies compared to 2013 fee policies:
- Bank of America: Increased the fee to $1 more for business checks
- BMO Harris Bank: Hiked up the fee by $5 more
- Capital One: Unchanged
- Chase: $6 (last year it was free for checks under $50, but $6 over $50)
- Citizens Bank: Unchanged
- Fifth Third: Changed from a flat $5 rate to a fee of 1 percent of the check amount with a $4 maximum limit
- KeyBank: Went from free to $7.50
- M&T: Unchanged
- PNC: Unchanged
- Regions: Went from $1 for every $100 to above $10, 1 percent of the check
- SunTrust: Free for personal checks now, but $7 for business checks (according to our breakdown, last year it was a flat rate of $7)
- TD Bank: Unchanged
- U.S. Bank: Unchanged
- Wells Fargo: Unchanged
Understanding how it works
1. You receive a Chase-issued check of $100 for your birthday.
2. You personally bank at Bank of America, but for whatever reason, can’t make it to your own bank’s branch, and you need the money as soon as possible, so instead you head to Chase to cash it.
3. You wait in line at Chase. When it’s your turn, you head up to the counter and ask the teller to cash your check.
4. The teller tells you that since you are not a Chase member, you will unfortunately have to pay a $6 fee for the cashing of your check.
What should you do?
You may be wondering why anyone would ever go to a different bank to cash a check, when their own bank provides the service for free. As we illustrated in the above scenario, if you can’t get to your bank, going to the bank of the issued check is your second resort. However, just because you aren’t near a branch, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck as far as cashing it with your bank — you can always deposit it through your bank’s ATM.
Another instance in which someone might need to do this, is if they themselves don’t have a bank account. In this case, they would need to go to a check-cashing facility, like the check-issuing bank.
Interestingly enough, for those who don’t have their own bank account, there are a variety of check-cashing businesses to choose from, such as local check-cashing stores, which are usually mom-and-pop stores. These cashiers operate much like banks do, but their policies are often more costly — these facilities may impose a flat fee in addition to a percentage charge, or a fee that is equivalent to a percentage of the check value.
Obviously if you’ve been issued a check from one of the rare generous banks left that don’t impose a fee, it’s best to cash it directly at that bank.
Finally, major retailers offer check-cashing services, and this is often where you’ll get the best value. For instance, Walmart charges just $3 to cash checks of $1,000 or less. At some 7-Eleven locations, there are also kiosks that let you cash checks for a flat 0.99 percent fee.
What you’ll need with you to cash a check at a bank that isn’t your own
There are several takeaways from the feedback of customer service representatives and bankers regarding these fee policies. One prerequisite to cashing a check with a bank you don’t belong to, is to bring at least two forms of identification. Without this, most banks won’t be able to help you cash the check. It’s smart to also make sure you have the contact information of the person who wrote you the check, and if it’s part of a business partnership, ask whether the company is willing to take the fee on them, so that you aren’t charged.
How to avoid frustrations if you’re looking into the fee policies of banks
If you decide to do your own investigating because you have a check issued by a bank that isn’t listed, we recommend going through a branch number instead of customer service (though sometimes that is hard when bank branch numbers aren’t listed online). Branch members are much more familiar with the policies of daily transactions that occur at their branch locations, and as such, are better equipped to inform you about routine protocol. Customer service representatives are likely to ask you to hold while they look up the answer in their database, which isn’t likely to be wrong, but may mean a longer wait time for you (though not drastically). Also, call well ahead of the branch’s closing time, or you may be rebuffed.
Though many banks charge check cashing fees, depending on which bank you go to you might be able to talk to someone and get the fee lowered or waived. When speaking with a Portland branch from U.S. Bank and inquiring about the cost to cash a business check in addition to a personal check, a representative said that if ever a business check situation arises, to come down to the branch and see if they can work something out with you. Given the amount of leniency and authority branch employees are given, you may benefit from explaining your situation.