Losing, misplacing, or having your ID stolen can make it difficult to perform certain everyday tasks, including cashing a check.
Most check cashing establishments require you to provide a valid government ID before they’ll cash your check — to avoid using an ID, you’ll need to use an unconventional check cashing method, such as mobile deposit or signing the check over to a trusted friend.
Below, we explain your options when you don’t have your ID on hand.
Do You Need an ID to Cash a Check?
Banks, check cashing stores, and other places that provide check cashing services typically require some form of identification before cashing checks for customers.
For example, if you cash a check at Walmart, you’ll have to show a valid ID (e.g., state driver’s license or photo ID, military ID, tribal ID, or U.S. passport) whether you’re cashing it at a register or the Walmart MoneyCenter.
Even among stores that offer check cashing privileges with a store card, such as Giant Eagle (as previously reported), you must initially provide a valid ID to activate check cashing privileges. You will also be asked for both an ID and your store card when you cash checks.
The USA PATRIOT Act includes a “know your customer” provision that requires businesses conducting certain types of financial transactions to request proper identification. Producing valid identification helps prove your legitimacy as a customer and prevents the likelihood of fraud, identity theft, and money laundering.
Required ID Types
Most banks and stores require you to show one or two forms of government-issued identification when cashing checks.
Such ID forms can include:
- State-issued photo driver’s license
- State-issued photo learner’s permit
- State-issued photo ID
- Military photo ID
- U.S. passport
- U.S. visa
Your ID must be valid and current — you will not be able to cash a check with an expired ID.
Other forms of ID may be acceptable on a case-by-case basis, depending on individual financial institution branches or store locations. If you have another form of ID not listed above, browse our banking list below or contact the bank or store in your area and ask if it will accept your alternative ID for check cashing.
Depending on the bank or store, you may be able to use a secondary form of valid ID. Some forms of secondary ID are government-issued, though they aren’t the common types listed above. Secondary forms of ID may also include IDs that are issued by some entity other than the government, such as a school or employer.
Banks and stores that accept secondary IDs usually require that you produce two forms of secondary ID to complete the transaction. So, while you may be able to cash a check without one of the commonly requested government-issued photo IDs listed above, you’ll probably still have to show something that comes from the government, even if that means a birth certificate, welfare ID, etc.
Secondary forms of ID may include:
- Alien registration photo card
- College photo ID
- Employment photo ID
- Firearms permit photo ID
- Foreign driver’s license photo ID
- Permanent resident photo card
- U.S. birth certificate
- U.S. employment authorization photo ID
- Welfare photo ID
How to Cash a Check If You Don’t Have an ID
While your options are limited if you don’t have an ID and need to cash a check, there are a few options you can try.
Sign Over Your Check to a Trusted Person
If you must cash a check quickly but you don’t have an acceptable ID, you can ask a relative or friend to cash it as a third party. This means you’ll sign the check over to them, and they’ll cash it for you. It’s relatively easy to do this; see our explanation of how to sign over a check.
Note that due to the risk of fraud, not all places will cash a third-party check. And among those that do, some places require the payee (you) to sign over the check in the presence of a bank teller/store associate and provide a valid photo ID when you do so. See our previous research on banks that accept third-party checks (and those that don’t).
Use Your Bank’s Mobile Check Cashing App
If you have an account with a bank that has a mobile check cashing app, get the app on your cell phone or digital device. You’ll need to be signed up for online banking services for this method to work. Open the app and follow the bank’s instructions for endorsing, photographing, and depositing your check through the app. If your check is large, you’ll probably have to wait for the check to clear — usually a day or two — before you can access all of the funds. Find out more about this process in our research on online check cashing.
Use an Online Mobile Check Cashing App
If your bank doesn’t have a mobile app for check cashing, or if you don’t have a bank account with online banking, you can still cash checks using a mobile app. Ingo Money, for example, is a popular online check cashing app that is easy to use. Simply get the app, create a user profile, link an account (a prepaid card, PayPal account, bank-issued debit card, or credit card), and take a photo of your check. You can get fast access to your money for a fee, or you can opt to wait ten days to get access to your money without paying a fee.
Use a Reloadable Prepaid Card
Reloadable prepaid cards are an alternative option for transferring funds without presenting an ID. These cards function like bank-issued debit cards, but you’ll be transferring money from your check directly onto the card, instead of into a bank account. You can find prepaid cards at stores such as CVS (NetSpend), Walgreens (American Express, Green Dot, MyVanilla), and Walmart (MoneyCard). Once you have the card, follow the instructions for registration and activation. To avoid hassles with check cashing, choose the direct deposit option that transfers paycheck funds to the card — this works for checks that can be deposited electronically. You can also reload these money cards using cash when checking out at store registers. When funds are available, you can use the card to withdraw cash at the nearest ATM.
Note that not all prepaid cards can be activated without ID. For instance, PayPal offers a reloadable prepaid card, but you may need to show ID to get it. PayPal collects your full name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number when issuing a prepaid card; you may be asked to show a driver’s license or another identifying document to verify this information. You don’t need a PayPal account to use the PayPal Prepaid MasterCard, and you can add money to this card using direct deposit or instant transfer from a PayPal account. However, you will need to have a PayPal account to gain access to all of the Prepaid Card’s online features.
Get a State-Issued Photo ID
If none of the options listed above will work for you, you may want to consider getting a state-issued photo ID. This process usually involves visiting your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or Secretary of State (SOS) office, completing an application form, and providing proof of your identity and legal U.S. presence (birth certificate or U.S. passport). You will also likely need to provide proof of your state residency, which you can often do with a lease agreement or utility bill with your name and address on it. You’ll have to pay a fee (usually about $30, though it varies by state). Most DMV and SOS offices will process your application, take your photo, and present you with your state-issued photo ID all on the same day.
Provided you have a valid ID, you can cash your check without a bank account at most check cashing locations. There are many banks, grocery stores, and check cashing stores that will cash your check for a fee. To find out more, see our research on how to cash a check without a bank account. Some places will also cash checks for free.