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Explore Your Check-Cashing Options

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Whether it’s a paycheck or a check from someone else, it feels good to have money coming in. But on its own that check is little more than an IOU. You’ve got to deposit it to access those funds; so the question is, where will that deposit take place?

In today’s world of direct deposit, corner banks and ATMs, check-scanning apps and prepaid cards, you have a lot of options. Here’s what you need to know about each.

Direct deposit
Many employers will deposit your paycheck directly into your account, so long as you provide account and routing numbers for your bank. Among deposit methods, this is one of the safest and most convenient.

“You should establish direct deposit if it is an option,” says Eleanor Blayney, CFP®, consumer advocate for the CFP® Board in Washington, D.C. “It gets your money right into your account with no separate trip to the bank.”

Choosing direct deposit also eliminates the chance that the check will get lost or stolen, makes it easy to track your deposits electronically, and usually means you will have access to those funds a day or two sooner, she says.

Visiting a local branch
Before the age of the Internet, going to a bank was the only way you could deposit a check or withdraw funds, and it is still an easy and quick option.

When making deposits at a local branch, Blayney recommends separating deposits and withdrawals into two transactions for easier financial tracking. “If you deposit $260, and take $100 cash back, the transaction may show up as simply a $160 deposit,” she says. “That makes it difficult to track exactly how much money you’ve made or spent.”

ATMs
ATMs are everywhere and offer a convenient option for depositing checks and getting cash, but you want to be thoughtful about these transactions. When depositing a check via an ATM, HowStuffWorks recommends recording the transaction in your checkbook and keeping the receipt of your ATM deposit to verify against your monthly statements. It’s also a good idea to choose ATMs that are linked to your bank to reduce or eliminate transaction fees.

Remote deposit
Many banks now offer a remote deposit option, which allows you to scan a check using a scanner or mobile app and send the digital image to the bank as a deposit. This can be a great convenience, but there are often dollar limits on these transactions and they may have associated fees.

Prepaid cards
Prepaid credit cards can be obtained directly from a bank, as well as a variety of retailers. They require no credit check or minimum deposit, and they can be reloaded any time.

“It is a convenient way to carry and access your money,” Blayney says. But she notes that there are benefits associated with using a traditional bank account, as well. “It’s a good idea to have a bank account so you can keep tabs on your financial history,” she adds. “If you funnel all of your money through one account, you’ll know exactly where your money is coming from, and where it’s going.”

However you choose to deposit your checks, convenience and security are key. Taking the steps to find a reliable way to deposit and manage your money will put you on track to make smart financial habits part of your routine.

This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

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