Short Answer: Writing a check payable to cash is as simple as writing “cash” on the “pay to the order of” line. But beware: checks written to cash are risky because they can be cashed by anyone. Some banks may refuse to cash a check written to cash or put a hold on it to prevent fraud. Below, we have the step-by-step instructions for how to write a check payable to cash, plus the list of safer alternatives to writing checks for cash.
What Is a Check Payable to Cash?
A check payable to cash is exactly as it sounds: a check that has been made payable to “cash,” rather than to a recipient’s name.
Checks written to cash offer an alternate way to withdraw cash from your account or to transfer funds between accounts. For example, if you want to move $50 from your checking to your savings account, you can write a check to cash to withdraw the $50 from your checking account. You can then deposit the cash at your bank or an ATM.
Making a check payable to cash is also an option if you don’t know the full or exact name of the payee; he or she can still deposit the check this way.
What Are the Risks of Writing Checks for Cash?
Be aware that once you write a check to cash, anyone can use it. These checks are convenient, but because there is no name on the “pay to the order of” line, they are also risky. Once you’ve written a check to cash, treat it like cash, and make sure you don’t lose it.
Some banks refuse to honor checks written to cash because of the risk. The bank may choose not to cash the check or may put a hold on your funds until you can verify that the check is being used properly.
Additionally, since checks to cash don’t tell you who the money is for, keeping financial records on them can be tricky. Finding out the exact name of the payee may be easier in the long run.
How Do You Write a Check Payable to Cash?
Writing a check payable to cash is similar to writing an ordinary check. First, begin filling out the check the way you normally would; instead of writing a name or company on the pay-to-order line, simply write “cash.” Next, write out the value of the amount of cash you need, as you would on a normal check. Once you sign the check, it will be valid to cash.
How to Cash and Deposit a Check for Cash
If you’re the recipient of a check written to cash, deposit it the same way you would any other check. Your best bet is to visit the issuing bank of the check. That bank may be more willing to cash the check since it was written by an account holder.
Other banks may refuse to honor checks to cash in an attempt to prevent fraud. Also, if the cash amount is very large, the bank may not give you the full amount in one transaction, for security reasons. The bank may place an extra hold on the check to make sure it is legitimate.
To avoid these extra wait times or being turned away by your teller, request that all checks you receive are made payable to you by name.
For a list of places that cash checks, see our article: 30+ Places That Cash Personal Checks.
What If You Misplace a Check Written to Cash?
If you lose a check made payable to cash, anyone who finds it can cash it. Without a recipient’s name, a bank or store that agrees to cash the check will assume that the person in possession of the check is the correct recipient.
If you lose a check written to cash, stop payment of the check immediately. As long as no one has already cashed the check, this will prevent the funds from being withdrawn from your account. You can request a stop-payment of your check online, over the phone, or in person with a teller.
If you are unable to stop payment and someone other than the intended payee uses the check, you may have to take legal action to get the money back or may simply lose the cash.
Alternatives to Writing Checks to Cash
Writing checks to cash is a fast and straightforward process, but there are ways to transfer money that are just as easy and far less risky. Below, we list the safer alternatives to writing checks payable to cash.
- Online banking: Your bank’s website or mobile app should offer options for account-to-account and bank-to-bank transfers.
- Teller transfer: Visit a teller in your bank’s lobby. Brick-and-mortar banks often provide the same type of transfer services available online.
- Third-party services: Services like PayPal, Google Pay, or the Cash App by Square offer more ways to transfer money. On PayPal, for example, you can transfer money in and out of your bank account and transfer money to other PayPal accounts. These services take some additional time and effort to register for, but once your accounts are set up, they are as efficient as other types of transfer. Some other examples of online money-transfer programs include WePay, Skrill, ProPay, Dwolla, Braintree, Stripe, and Payoneer.
- Write a check to yourself: Instead of another person’s name, simply write your own name on the “pay to the order of” line. You can then deposit the check into a different account. You may need to provide photo identification when cashing a check written to yourself.
Note: Banks, digital wallets, and other financial services often set limits on how much money you can transfer in a single transaction, a day, or a month. Be aware of your account’s rules before scheduling any transfers.
For Unknown Payees
There are no direct alternatives to writing a check made payable to cash if you are writing the check to someone else. Traditional check alternatives like money orders and wire transfers are less risky than checks made payable to cash but also require you to know the payee’s full name and other personal information. If you are able, it’s best to ask for the recipient’s full name and write the check directly to the recipient.
- ATMs: Use the ATM at your own bank, or find an ATM at another bank or nearby store. ATMs are easy to find and allow you to withdraw money from your checking account. Be aware that fees may apply if you use an ATM outside of your bank’s network.
- Cash back: Many retailers, especially grocery stores, allow customers to get cash back at the register. Some stores allow you to withdraw as little as $5, and others will enable you to withdraw over $100 in a single transaction. For more details on getting cash back at stores, see our dedicated articles on gas stations that do cash back, stores that give $5 and $10 cash back, and stores that give the most cash back.
- Write a check to yourself: Write your own name on the pay-to-order line. You will be able to cash the check and get the money you wish to withdraw. Be aware of any check cashing fees and ID requirements at the place where you plan to cash your check.
Checks payable to cash can be useful if you are writing a check to an unknown payee, transferring money from one account to another, or want to withdraw money from your bank account. If you decide to use a check written to cash, all you have to do is write “cash” in the “pay to the order of” line and fill out the rest of the check as you normally would.
However, checks written to cash are risky because without a named recipient, anyone who finds the check can cash it. Be aware that some banks will also refuse to cash this type of check in the interest of fraud protection. You may want to consider alternatives like online banking, getting cash back at a store, or writing a check to yourself.