It can be difficult and lonely to leave your home country and work abroad. However, it is a common and often necessary sacrifice made by individuals looking to provide a more comfortable life for loved ones back home. Fortunately, those sacrifices are lessened when workers receive their hard-earned paychecks — a tangible reward and reminder of why they work so far from home.
Many employers pay their employees by direct deposit into their bank accounts. And while a direct deposit can be the simplest way to be compensated, some businesses still pay with physical checks. If you work abroad and get paid by paper check, there are several ways to cash or deposit it into your bank account.
How To Cash a Check With a Bank Account
If your paycheck is issued by the same bank where you have a savings or checking account, you can cash it with your bank, typically either in person or online.
You can quickly determine whether the issuing bank is the same as yours by looking at the top or bottom of the check. Depending on your bank’s policy, this process is usually free.
Cashing a Check in Person
To cash a check in person, you’ll need to bring valid photo identification. Financial institutions have different policies regarding valid IDs, but government-issued identification like passports and driver’s licenses are usually accepted. If you’re in doubt about which forms of identification your bank accepts, visit their website or give them a quick call to find out.
Depending on your bank, you might need to have your bank card with you. If you don’t have it, they may ask you to fill out additional forms to cash your check.
Cashing a check in person can go as follows:
- Go to the bank teller with your photo ID, check, and bank card.
- Show the teller your ID and give them your debit card if they ask for it.
- Endorse the check by signing the back of the check in front of the teller. If possible, don’t sign the check before you arrive at the bank for security reasons.
- The bank teller will count the bills and place them in front of you. Feel free to double-check your money by counting it yourself before leaving the bank.
My Check Has a Different Issuing Bank. Can I Still Cash It?
If you have a different issuing bank, your bank might require you to deposit the check first. If this is the case, you may be asked to fill out some forms.
Depending on the type of check, the money may be available as early as two or more business days. In some cases, money from salary and government checks is accessible after one business day.
Cashing a Check Online Using Mobile Check Deposit
When you cash your check online, you’re not really “cashing” it. Instead, you’re depositing it into your checking or savings account. This service is called a mobile deposit.
Using your smartphone or tablet, you can take a photo of the check and upload it to your bank’s mobile app. This service is common in mobile banking. You’ll get an email after making your deposit confirming the transaction. Depending on the type of check, it may clear as soon as within one business day or after a few days. However, not all banks or credit unions offer this service, so be sure to ask a bank representative.
After you’ve successfully deposited your check, many banks recommend keeping your physical check with you as a record for a certain period just in case a problem occurs.
Related reading: How to Send Money to Someone Who Doesn’t Have a Bank Account
How To Cash a Check Without a Bank Account
The World Bank reported that there were 1.7 billion people who don’t have a bank account in 2017. If you’re among this group, don’t worry. You can still cash a personal check or a paycheck even if you don’t have a bank account. However, you might have to pay a fee to do so.
Here are some ways:
- With the Issuing Bank. You can find the issuing bank’s name on the check, and you should be able to cash your paycheck with that bank or one of its branches. Depending on the bank’s policy, this process may be free or require a small fee. However, banks are not obligated to cash checks for non-customers.
- Passbook by Remitly1. Money transfer provider Remitly (that’s us!) now offers the Passbook app, which provides access to a free mobile account and Visa® debit card designed for immigrants living in the United States. No minimum deposits or fees, even when spending internationally. No SSN required.
- With Check-Cashing Stores. Some retailers or grocery stores offer check-cashing services for a fee. If you live in the United States, Kmart, Walmart and Kroger offer this service. Some 7-Eleven convenience stores do as well. Check-cashing stores have different fees, so be sure to inquire before making the transaction.
- Check Cashing Apps. These include PayPal, Ingo Money, and others. With these apps, you can deposit your money through a prepaid debit card or mobile wallet.
- Prepaid Debit Cards. Prepaid debit cards are much like prepaid SIM cards — your spending is only limited by the amount of money you deposit into it. If you work on a cruise ship or abroad, your employer might have set up a prepaid Visa or Mastercard debit card for direct deposit. Ask a bank representative if they offer an option to deposit a check to your prepaid card through their app. The process is similar to cashing a check online.
1 The Passbook app is by Remitly, a financial technology company. Remitly is not a bank. Banking services are provided by Sunrise Banks N.A. The Passbook Visa® debit card is issued by Sunrise Banks N.A., Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. The card can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
What Are the Check-Cashing Fees?
How much does cashing a check cost? It depends on where you cash it.
- If you have an account with the issuing bank, the service is usually free. Fees may vary if your account is not with the issuing bank.
- If you cash your check with a retail store, sometimes you’ll need to pay a fee. The fee varies depending on which store you go to.
- For many apps with check-cashing features, the service may be free if you are willing to wait. However, you’ll find that these apps can charge a fee if you want the money sooner, depending on the type of check. You can find out this specific info from their apps.
How Long Does It Take Before a Check Expires?
If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the opportunity to cash a check you received, you might be wondering how long a check is valid. It depends on the type of check you have.
- Business, personal, and payroll checks. These are usually valid for six months. After six months, the check can become “stale-dated.” Once a check is stale-dated, it’s up to the bank’s discretion whether it will honor or reject it.
- Cashier’s checks and money orders. These have no official expiration date. However, if you hold on to these for too long, they can be declared as escheated checks. An escheated check is turned over to the state as unclaimed property. The rules vary a bit from country to country.
- American Express Travelers Checks. As of this writing, these do not expire.
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Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Our reliable and easy-to-use mobile app is trusted by over 5 million people around the world. Visit our homepage or download our app to learn more.
More About Checks
- What Are the Different Types of Checks?
- How to Void a Check in the U.S.: Everything You Need to Know
- How to Write a Check: A Step-by-Step Guide
- How to Endorse a Check