Your local U.S. Postal Service station might be expanding its services. Although you may think your post office is only for handling mail or buying money orders, some locations have expanded into providing other services, such as cashing checks.
Why Is the Post Office Cashing Checks?
The United States Congress recognized that a large portion of the low-income population and retirees was underbanked and did not have access to normal banking services, such as having a bank account. Congress looked at the U.S. Postal Service and its large retail footprint as a way to make check cashing available to low-income people at a reasonable cost. In addition, if the check cashing service is a success, it could provide another revenue stream for the deficit-plagued postal system.
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The goal is to give low-income people who are unbanked an option to cash their checks rather than going into payday lenders and check-cashing stores that charge exorbitant fees for their check-cashing services.
Although the program was started last year as a banking pilot program with only a few post offices offering the check-cashing service, the Postal Service expects to expand to more post office locations and start offering other banking services, such as access to ATMs, ability to make electronic transfers to other post offices and bill-paying services.
Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) has said the union supports the addition of these proposed banking services. He has said that the future of the Postal Service will depend on offering new services that will bring in more revenues.
It is safer and more reliable to put your money in a bank. If at all possible, set up a bank account to keep deposited money from your checks. There it will be insured, and you will earn interest.
Which Types of Checks Can Be Cashed at the USPS?
To cash a personal check, you can purchase a money order at any post office, and then ask them to cash the money order.
At a few designated locations, the post office will cash payroll and business checks for a flat fee $5.95 in amounts up to $500. You will receive a Visa debit gift card for the amount of the check cashed. Checks larger than $500 will not be accepted.
How to Cash a Check at the Post Office
The debit card or gift card you received from cashing a payroll or business check can be used like any other bank debit card. You can take money out of an ATM, although that would incur additional fees, or pay for goods and services either online or in local retail stores.
Future plans call for the debit card to be reloadable, rather than single-use and could be used to store several paychecks over time.
To cash a personal check you'll need to:
- Purchase a money order at the post office for the exact amount of the check.
- Endorse the money order and present valid identification.
- Ask the post office to cash the money order you just purchased and endorsed. The post office will only redeem the money order if they have enough cash available.
Common Check Cashing Questions
Which Post Office Locations Are Offering Check Cashing Services?
The pilot program to cash payroll and business checks using debit cards has started with locations in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Falls Church, Virginia and the Bronx in New York. The Postal Service plans to add more locations but has not announced a new schedule, although the USPO intends to begin advertising its services to attract consumer interest and drive foot traffic that will increase revenues. The addition of future locations will depend on how much consumer interest is generated with the first four pilot locations. However, at this time, the debit card method to cash payroll and business checks is limited to these locations.
How Can I Use a Personal Check to Get Cash at the Post Office?
You can still cash personal checks at any post office using the money order procedure, providing the post office has enough cash on hand.
What Will I Need to Cash a Check at the USPS?
You will need to provide valid identification to prove that you are the payee and are authorized to endorse the checks.