If you’re annoyed by 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 check-cashing fees when you’re not a customer.
What’s more, banks will only cash a check for a non-customer if the check is issued by that specific bank. We contacted the top 20 banks in the U.S. in order to determine their non-customer check-cashing fee policies, which we have compiled in a table below.
While some banks, like Capital One, Citibank and SunTrust maintain a 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 20 U.S. banks (flat rates apply to business and personal checks unless otherwise specified) and how they changed in recent years:
Bank Fee policy in 2014 Fee policy in 2013
Bank of America $6 Free for personal checks; $5 for business checks
BMO Harris Bank $10 ($50 is the minimum amount you can cash) $5
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) Free under $50; Over $50 a fee of $8
Capital One Free (Checks of $1,000 and above are more complicated to cash, but still free) Free (Checks of $1,000 and above are more complicated to cash, but still free)
Chase $6 $6 for checks over $50; otherwise, free
BBVA Compass $7 Free for checks under $50; $7.50 if the value of the check is $50-$100; $10 for checks over $200
Citibank Free for checks under $5,000 Free for checks under $6,500
Fifth Third Bank 1% of the check amount ($4 maximum) $5
HSBC Bank Free for personal checks; $3 for business checks under $100 and $5 for business checks of $100 or more Free for personal checks; $3 for business checks under $100 and $5 for business checks of $100 or more
KeyBank $7.50 Free
M&T Bank $10 $10
PNC Bank $10 $10
Regions Bank Free under $10, but above $10, 1% of the check amount ($2 minimum and $20 maximum) $1 for every $100 of the check amount
Citizens-Bank $7 $7
State Street Bank Free Free
SunTrust Personal check is free; business check is $7 $7
TD Bank $7 $7
Union Bank $5 fee for personal checks over $100; $5 for business checks over $25 $5 fee for personal checks over $100; $5 for business checks over $25
U.S. Bank $5 $5
Wells Fargo $7.50 $7.50
Every bank requires that you have two forms of government-issued ID when you go in to the branch to cash a check as a non-customer.
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.
Bank of America, BBVA Compass and KeyBank are some of the big banks that have raised fees. Meanwhile, Fifth Third Bank and SunTrust have implemented lower fees for their check-cashing services.
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. More likely, however, you don’t have a bank account that is capable of receiving or cashing checks.
Luckily, for people in this predicament, here are other ways to cash a check without a bank account:
- Convenience stores and supermarkets. The nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, offers check-cashing services that cost $3 to cash checks of $1,000 or less or $6 for checks of over $1,000 to $5,000 (the maximum). Also, some 7-Eleven locations have kiosks that will cash checks for a flat 0.99 percent fee. These are just two popular examples as cash-checking alternatives — you’re local supermarket or convenience store may provide similar services.
- Check-cashing stores. You may have noticed the local check-cashing stores that are scattered throughout your neighborhood. They’ll cash your checks as you’d expect, but it may be more expensive that the other options — usually as a percentage fee or a percentage fee plus a flat fee.
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.