When you receive a cheque, you need to cash it. The best way to do this is through your own bank account. If you do not yet have a bank account, see the article titled “How to open a bank account” for instructions.
Depending on the account you have, cashing cheques will not cost you additional money. You can cash the cheque at either the teller at your bank branch or by using an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) at your bank.
When cashing a cheque you need two things:
- Your bank card
Most banks have a 5 day holding period before you can get your money. When you cash a cheque, the bank returns the cheque to the bank of the person who wrote the cheque. Then the money is transferred from that bank to your bank. If there is enough money in that person’s account, the money will be transferred to your bank and put into your account. If there is not enough money in that person’s account, the cheque but not the money will be sent back to your bank and you will not get your money. It usually takes 5 days to do all of this.
There are ways to minimize the holding period. Get to know your branch and the staff. You may be able to get the holding period reduced, if they know you and trust that they will get the money from the person who wrote the cheque.
All banks must cash a government of Canada cheque for free, even if you do not have an account with the bank. This includes GST/HST rebates and income tax refunds. You will need to take proper ID with you to the bank. This would be one piece of ID with both your photo and your signature. You should check to see if your province issues a photo ID card for those who do not drive, such as the Ontario Photo Card (see article titled “Ontario Photo Card”). If you don’t have any ID that has both, you will have to show 2 pieces of ID. In Toronto, any Royal Bank of Canada branch will cash your Ontario Works cheque (http://www.toronto.ca/socialservices/faq.htm#cash )
A good option, if it is possible, is to have your pay or pension (for example, Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) in Ontario) deposited directly into your bank account. The money is immediately available to use and there is no cost to you.
As a last resort, you can use a cash advance store to cash your cheque. These stores will cash your cheque immediately, as long as you have proper identification. It will cost you to use this service. The most common fee is about 3% of the total amount you want cashed. There is also a $3.00 fee per cheque. So, it would cost you $18 to cash a $500 cheque. This might not seem like much. However, if you did this each month for a year it would add up to $216 that you could have used to buy something else.
You will need to sign your cheque on the back in order to cash it. You should never sign it in advance. Once the cheque is signed, it is the same as cash. If it is lost or stolen, anyone can cash it once it is signed. Always sign your name the same way. This will help, if someone steals your cheque and cashes it. If the signature is not the same as you use, it proves that you did not cash it.
It is not recommended that you sign a cheque over to someone else (that is giving a cheque made out to you to someone else to cash). Remember that once it has been signed by you it is the same as cash. If the person loses it or it is stolen, the chances are that the money will be gone.
If you are writing a cheque to cash yourself, do not make the cheque out to “cash”. Instead, make it payable to yourself. That is, put your own name on the “payable to” line.
Here are some other tips on writing a cheque:
- Always use a pen (never a pencil) to write a cheque so that it can not be erased and changed.
- Never sign a cheque that does not have the name of the person it is payable to written on it.
- Always sign a cheque with the same signature.
- When filling in the dollar amount (both in number form and letter form) always draw a line through any blank space so no one can add or change the amount.
For more tips on “How to write a cheque safely”: http://banking.about.com/od/checkingaccounts/a/how2writeacheck.htm
For a visual example of how to write a cheque: http://banking.about.com/od/checkingaccounts/ig/How-to-Write-a-Check
For more tips on Cheques in Canada:
Identifying the bank, branch and account numbers printed on a cheque. http://www.tdcanadatrust.com/lending/cheque.html