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In Canada, though citizens and permanent residents have the technical right to open a bank account, there are obstacles that prevent many from getting an account. The need for government-issued identification and a Social Insurance Number preclude marginalized populations from accessing this service. In fact, an estimated three percent of Canadian residents have no bank account at all. 

Everything from lacking a permanent address to missing identifying documentation can preclude access to a bank account. For those receiving cheque payments, it is challenging to access the funds without the assistance of these financial institutions. Since banks and Credit Unions do not cash cheques for those without an account, the role falls to other businesses. These companies, ranging from CashCo to MoneyMart, cash the cheque — at a cost. To make the most out of your cashable dollars, it’s important to understand the options available. 

What Is Cheque Cashing? 

True to its name, cheque cashing is a business transaction where a cheque is exchanged for its cash value, less a processing fee. It enables those cashing the cheque to avoid hold times and get instant access to the funds. The processing fee, the amount charged by the business, represents the charge for the service. It enables the company to continue offering that service and generally takes only a nominal percentage of the cheque amount. Though it’s easier, cheaper, and quicker to cash a cheque through a bank, millions of Canadians rely on these services. 

Find out how you can get a bank account at minimal cost in Canada.

Types Of Cheques Accepted

In most cases, cheque-cashing companies will deal with almost any type of cheque. These range from workplace payroll to government-issued cheques. Small business, and even post-dated, just about any type of cheque will be processed by these companies. However, a noteworthy caveat is that many companies won’t deal with personal cheques. These represent situations where the company would be taking on undue risk in the event that the cheque is illegitimate or the account lacks sufficient funds. Provided the cheque is of low risk for the company to cash the cheque, it will proceed. 

Costs Of Cheque Cashing Services

The price of cashing a cheque, especially when you look at the real cost, varies significantly between companies. Though, unlike payday loans whose interest limits are legislated, cheque cashing is priced according to the business’ discretion. However, despite this freedom, general industry standards (the limits that make the financial service viable) keep the price between two- and five-percent of the cheque amount. 

Services that charge a higher percentile fee tend to have a lower processing cost. The transactional fee to process the cheque is usually similar to the percentage taken off the top. All in, you can end up spending as much as ten percent of the cheque’s value on the service. However, you can expect to pay roughly six percent of the value in most situations. Each business has slightly different terms of service for cheque-cashing. For some, it is the primary service, but in most cases, it is a supplement to other financial offerings like payday loans. As a general rule of thumb, if cheque cashing isn’t the primary focus of the business, it will be more affordable.  

How To Cash A Cheque Without A Bank Account In Canada

There are several approaches to cashing a cheque without having a bank account. Since you need to cash the cheque in person, a big part of figuring out where to go is ease of access. As long as you have the cheque and identification, the process is fairly straightforward. 

Payday Lending Stores

With the exception of some small businesses cashing cheques with a purchase, payday lenders have the market cornered on cheque cashing. There are several well-established businesses that offer this service. Since the companies are designed as franchises, it is usually quite easy to find one near to your location. 

CashCo Financial

One of the leading providers of cheque cashing services in Canada, Cashco Financial has 65 locations across four provinces. These include British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. A western company, it stands out from other providers in that it charges nothing for cheque-cashing. 

The marketing approach of this business is geared towards those who prefer to reduce the digitization of their finances. Avoiding bank accounts and cellphones, it takes a different approach to financial services. The company focuses on banking services and loan options, allowing it to cash cheques for no cost. 

Speedy Cash

Though it only has 20 different locations, Speedy Cash is a popular go-to for cheque cashing. The franchises are spread across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia.  It incentivizes customers through its willingness to cash everything from government cheques to payroll to money orders

The transactional fee is $3.50 per cheque cashed. This is in addition to the percentage fee, ringing in at 3.5 percent of the cheque value. Relative to some other companies, this cost is quite low. With the only real caveat being a limit of $999.99 per 24 hour period, it remains a popular service for those looking to convert a cheque to liquid cash in no time. 

Money Mart

Perhaps the best-known cheque-cashing company, it also offers other services like tax returns and payday loans. It stands out by offering cheque cashing services both in-store and via the mobile application. Available both on Google Play and the Apple Store, you can opt for the download or choose from over 500 locations. Unlike a lot of other companies, Money Mart has branches across the country. 

Any branch will be able to handle all kinds of cheques, including: 

  • Payroll cheques
  • Government-issued cheques
  • Small business cheques
  • Personal cheques
  • Payments from insurance
  • Money orders
  • Cheques that are post-dated

It offers some of the most comprehensive services and it is extremely simple to access the service, particularly since it works both online and in person. 

Benefits Of Cheque Cashing Services

There are many reasons that people turn to cheque cashing, even if they have an active bank account. While it can be cost-saving to deposit the cheque into your bank account, there are several benefits to getting it cashed at a private company. These include: 

  • Allows you to cash your cheque any day of the week. Banks are either not open during the weekends or after hours. While you can use mobile applications outside of business hours, the bank will still place a hold on a portion of the cheque. If you need that money quickly, this is an issue easily addressed by cheque cashing. 
  • Unlike banks that place a hold on the money until the cheque clears, these companies offer cash in hand right away. In exchange for a fee, you can get the money immediately. Otherwise, the bank needs to verify the cheque and transfer the funds pursuant to its orders. Only then is the hold released and the money available to use. Cash, on the other hand, is useful at any juncture. 
  • Avoiding liens against your account is a major reason people opt for cheque cashing. If your account is being garnished for money owed, it will come off the top of any amount deposited. When you opt for cheque cashing, it allows you access to the money from the cheque. This can enable you to access necessities like food prior to paying off debts. 

The reasons for cheque cashing at a private institution vary based on the situation, but in each case, so long as you have a cheque and ID, you can get liquid funds right away. 

Other Ways To Cash A Cheque

Though payday lenders tend to be the go-to option for cheque cashing, there are other approaches available. In some cases, consumers opt for alternatives to avoid steep fees. In other situations, it is because there are no cheque cashing locations in the area. Regardless of the cause, if you cannot use a payday lender, you can try:

Prepaid Debit Cards

To cater to the underbanked portion of the population, major financial institutions developed prepaid card systems. The card comes with a monthly service fee, but it allows you to use any ATM corresponding to the company to cash a cheque. Some options allow you to take a picture of the cheque and deposit it directly into your prepaid account. As with payday loan locations, this comes with a surcharge. Keep in mind that, like with a bank, the cheque is subject to a holding period. 

Find out if you can get a loan with a prepaid debit card.

Major Retailers

While it ultimately depends on the retailer, many businesses offer cheque-cashing when you make a purchase. Though the policies of many businesses changed due to the COVID pandemic, there are still options available. They tend to charge a flat rate, based on the size of the cheque in question. Since the retailer is so large, it would have no issue with accessing liquid cash. Plus, out of convenience, the person cashing the cheque is far more likely to spend money at the store where they cashed the cheque. 

The Bank That Issued The Cheque

Though it is general practice for banks to not cash cheques to those without an account at the institution, there is an exception. Banks and Credit Unions will cash a cheque if the issuing party has an account at that bank. Of course, there must be sufficient funds in the account and identification is required. The cheque must not have expired, meaning it must have been issued within the preceding six months. The service comes at a small cost, usually fewer than ten dollars per cheque cashed. 

There are many options to cash a cheque in Canada for those without bank accounts. So long as there is viable identification, it is usually quite efficient to get a cheque turned to cash. Mostly, it is a matter of the price associated with the service, since this is something most bank accounts offer at no extra cost. 

Cheque Cashing FAQs

Can I cash my government cheque for free?

Per federal law, any bank must cash cheque issued by the Government of Canada for no charge. This is true whether or not you are a customer of the bank itself. To get the cheque cashed, you must present viable identification, meaning it hasn’t expired, is government-issued, and has an image. 

How long can a bank hold my cheque?

Any financial institution subject to federal regulations is allowed to hold your money for between four and eight days. Depending on how long you’ve been with the institution, the type of account you have, and the bank’s discretion, the cheque can be released earlier. It is always quicker if the issuing party banks at the same institution as you do. 

Final Notes

No matter how you slice it, financial services come with a cost. If you use a bank account, you are subject to a holding period and a monthly fee for the account itself. With a prepaid card, you are paying a monthly fee for the access to that service. Payday lenders charge a flat fee for the service and a percentage of its proceeds. Retailers take a flat fee, and you are usually obliged to spend at that store. 

The easiest way to get a cheque cashed is to either do it online through a prepaid card or a business service such as MoneyMart. Otherwise, if cash is essential, it is a matter of finding somewhere close to you that offers the service. The surest option is to find a payday lender, located in every major city and most towns across Canada. Most are open outside of regular office hours and, while it comes with a cost, the process is quick and painless.

Corrina Murdoch avatar on Loans Canada
Corrina Murdoch

Corrina Murdoch has been a dedicated freelance writer and editor for several years. With an academic background in the sciences and a penchant for mathematics, she seeks to provide readers with accurate, reliable information on important topics. Working as a print journalist for several years, Corrina expanded her reach into the digital sphere to help more people gain insight into the realm of finances. When she's not writing, you can find Corrina swimming and spending time with family.

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