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I recently spent some time in the US, visiting a university (I am an academic). They gave me some money to go towards my expenses, in the form of a check in USD. I am from the UK, and my bank charges me fees for cashing checks from foreign countries (and gives me an awful exchange rate).

I am going back to the US in a few weeks, so if I can cash the check straight into dollars, this would be really great - but I'm not sure if this is possible with the US banking system (I know it is in some EU countries).

Does anyone have any ideas what I could do to maximise my dollars?

Thanks.

  • 2
    Would you be able visit a branch of the US issuing bank? – Giorgio Oct 9 '16 at 20:55
  • @Dorothy thanks for your help (i'm the OP - for some reason it's changed my accounts around. i have no idea what's going on). it says 'payable through US bank' on the check - is this a specific bank branch? i should be able to go to one, provided there's one in princeton. – Tom H Oct 9 '16 at 21:19
  • Yes. Is it this US Bank ? – Giorgio Oct 9 '16 at 21:22
  • Keep in mind paper checks may have an "expiration" date. Many state banking laws declare a check older than six months to be "stale dated", at which time the bank can choose not to honor it. This unfortunately varies from state to state and bank to bank so hard to say exactly if you might be effected. – user13044 Oct 10 '16 at 4:00
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You should be able to cash it at any branch of the bank upon which the check was drawn. Generally, without an account, you'd be asked for two forms of picture id (passport, drivers license, credit card with picture, university id), and they might charge a fee (or there is none, or it might be waived upon explanation of the circumstance).

And a more comprehensive answer, in an article by Simon Zhen in US News & World Report:

How to Cash a Check Without a Bank Account

Here are the cheapest ways to cash a check, sans a bank.

Check-cashing stores. Local mom-and-pop stores often come to mind when you search for checking-cash services. However, they can be costly.

Some check cashers may impose a fee equivalent to a percentage of the check value. Others may charge a flat fee in addition to a percentage fee. For large checks, these check-cashing facilities can be rather expensive.

For instance, to cash a $1,000 check, a $5 plus 1 percent fee means you’ll pay $15 for the check-cashing service. Other places are likely to have lower fees.

The check-issuing bank. A bank will only cash a check for a non-customer if a check is issued by that specific bank. Even then, the non-customer could face a check-cashing fee, which varies from bank to bank. For instance, TD Bank charges $5 whenever a non-customer wants to cash a TD Bank check. Meanwhile, Citibank doesn’t impose a fee when a non-customer wants to cash a Citibank check under $5,000.

More often than not, a non-customer will be persuaded to open an account with the bank to avoid paying the fee.

Retailers. Major retailers, such as 7-Eleven, Wal-Mart and some supermarket chains, offer check-cashing services, which likely cost less than those available at check-cashing stores and banks.

At some 7-Eleven locations, you can find kiosks that let you cash checks for a flat 0.99 percent convenience fee. Wal-Mart charges $3 for checks of $1,000 or less and $6 for checks greater than $1,000 and no more than $5,000. (The limit increases to $7,500 from January to April for tax refund checks.)

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