How Does a Check-Cashing Service Work?

 How Does a Check-Cashing Service Work?

How Does a Check-Cashing Service Work?

Seven percent of adults in the U.S. are “unbanked,” meaning they don't have a checking, savings, or money market account. Not having a bank account can occur for many reasons, including having negative items in your ChexSystems report, not wanting to pay the fees that come with a traditional bank account, or facing local bank branch closures.

It often necessitates using alternative financial services to complete basic transactions like cashing checks.

Check-cashing services exist to help the unbanked and underbanked convert their paychecks to cash at a convenient time (many are open 24 hours a day) and place (they're located in communities throughout the country). They're offered by retail stores like Walmart, payday loan lenders, and other financial services centers like Amscot. In most cases, they charge you a fee for the service that they're required to disclose, usually a percentage of the face value of the check.

For example, as of March 2022, Walmart charges $4 to cash checks up to $1,000 and $8 for checks over $1,000. While that may not seem like much—just 0.4% or 0.8% of your total check, respectively—other check cashers may charge more. Amscot charges up to 2.9% of the value of government checks, 2.5% of tax-refund checks, and up to 4.5% for other payroll and handwritten checks. If you cash a payroll check for $1,000 at Amscot, you could pay as much as $45. If you use the service to cash 26 paychecks per year, you could lose $1,170 in fees.

Pros Explained

Provides financial services to the unbanked and underbanked: Check-cashing services provide customers with the ability to cash a check when they may not otherwise be able to open a bank account or access one when they need it (when traveling or cashing a check after business hours, for example).

Makes money available almost immediately: Additionally, for people who may be living paycheck to paycheck or have a rare financial emergency, check-cashing services can put money in your hands almost immediately. There's no need to wait one or two days for your money to clear from a bank account.

Cons Explained

May charge extremely high fees: Check-cashing services often charge extremely high fees, which can reduce the amount of your hard-earned money you get to keep. Banks or credit unions usually don’t charge account holders for cashing checks. Since banks save you money on cashing checks in the long run, it would be to your advantage to open a bank account as soon as you can. It may help to repay any outstanding balances you owe and report erroneous negative items.

Easy to get stuck in a cycle: Sometimes, check-cashing fees can get so out of hand that individuals can't pay for vital expenses (rent, food, or transportation, for example). As long as the dependency on quick cash persists, a person might continue to use a check-cashing service and get stuck in a cycle.

Can leave consumers stuck using non-traditional financial services: The ease and convenience of check-cashing services can make a person resistant to ever opening a traditional bank account or benefiting from the many free services and other benefits they offer.

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