How to Properly Cash or Deposit Personal Checks

Getting access to the money owed to you through personal checks seems simple, but there are some important things you should know before heading straight to the bank.

Is it a Real Check?

The most important thing you can do is make sure the personal check you want to cash is valid. If you try to cash a false personal check you could end up in some serious trouble. Cashier's check fraud is a common type of scam, but you could also be held responsible for lost funds if you cash a personal check that bounces.

If you have questions about the legality of a check, or want to make sure it will clear, contact the bank printed on the check before cashing it or depositing the funds in your account.

How to Endorse the Check

Before you cash a personal check you'll need to endorse it with your signature on the back. The bank will check the signature on the endorsement against your signature card, which you signed when you opened your account. This is done as a way of preventing check fraud.

You'll notice the back of the check indicates you should only endorse with your signature on a specific area. That's because the bank needs the space below your signature for processing.

It's a smart habit to wait until you get to the bank to endorse a check. That's because if an endorsed check is lost or stolen, someone could potentially cash it themselves or write directions under your signature to have it paid to them.

When personal checks are written to more than one person - such as a husband and wife - both parties may have to endorse the check. It all depends on the little words "and," and "or."

If the check is written to husband AND wife, then it must be endorsed by both of them. However, if OR is used, only one of the two people needs to sign the back of the personal check. You can make things simpler for others if you use "or" when writing personal checks to more than one person.

Where to Cash a Check

The best place to cash personal checks is almost always at your own bank. The bank that issued the check or the bank where the check was drawn will usually cash it for you as well. However, other banks can still choose to charge you a fee.

You may be asked to show identification or give your account number to have the check cashed or deposited. So make sure you have your driver's license or another form of ID along with you.

Any bank can refuse to cash a check if they think something is suspicious, or they may be unwilling to help people who are not their customers.

Unless it's absolutely necessary, you should stay away from using check cashing stores and payday loan shops to cash personal checks. These establishments will almost always charge you fees. That's money that could have been in your hands.

Open your own checking and/or savings account at bank or credit union in your area to avoid having to pay fees when you cash your checks.