Can You Cash a Ripped Check?

For some, checks might feel like a thing of the past, with most employers opting to pay their employees via direct deposit these days. However, millions of checks are still cashed every day and for a lot of people, they are integral in ensuring they get paid each month. And aside from paychecks, there are many other types of checks that you might receive.

The reason checks are being used less frequently in this day and age is primarily that they can be seen as less convenient and less secure than electronic payments. Let’s be real – accidents happen, and checks can be easily damaged or destroyed. When this happens, it can be a great source of stress as many of us are unsure of what to do with a damaged check and whether these can still be cashed. The payee may be unavailable or reluctant to provide you with a new check, so what can you do in this situation?

Well – there are options. Having a damaged or torn check does not necessarily mean that you won’t get your payment. Here, we will take a look at the important factors to consider and how you can handle this situation and if you can cash a ripped check.  

Firstly, Assess the Damage

The first thing you’ll want to do is establish how badly the check has been damaged. This is important as the magnitude of the damage is likely to determine your next steps.

If the check has a slight tear in the corner or there has been a spelling mistake that has been corrected, the chances are you should be able to cash your check as normal. However, if any of the integral information on the check such as the name, signature, the amount, or the security number has been torn through or are no longer readable, it might be a little more difficult to get your check cashed, but that’s not to say it’s impossible.

If the damage is minor, try cashing your check using your regular chosen method. If the damage is more detrimental, you might need to look into some of the other options listed in the following sections.

Next, Ensure the Check is Valid

This might seem obvious and if you’re a regular check user you probably already do this with each of your checks, but it’s vital that you ensure your check is valid before attempting to cash it. You don’t want to become involved in any fraud claims and there are a few really easy ways to make sure you’re cashing a valid, authentic check.

Verify the Bank Named on the Front of the Check

The first thing to do when verifying the legitimacy of a check is to make sure that it has come from a real bank. To do this, check out the bank that should be named on the front of the check. Carry out a quick internet search and make sure the bank is legit and all of the contact info matches up.

Inauthentic checks can be pretty convincing, so if you’re especially suspicious, it’s a good idea to give the bank a call and ask them to verify the check for you.

Who Wrote the Check?

Does the check come from a reputable payee? Are you familiar with the person or company that provided the check? If not, it’s even more important that you take each of these steps to verify its legitimacy.

The name of the individual or company that provided the check should be clearly printed on the front of the check, if not the check will not be valid and cannot be cashed.

Is the Check Made Out to You?

When cashing a check, it must be made out to the name linked to your bank account. This might be your personal account, in which case the check should be made out to you and have your name clearly written on the front. If the check is being deposited into a business account it should be made out to the name attached to this account. If the name on the check does not match the account name, you won’t be able to cash the check.

If this happens, you will need to contact the payee and request that they provide a new check with the correct name. They’re likely to ask that you return the void check so that they can dispose of it.

Is the Check Signed?

The check will need to be signed by the payee before it can be cashed. Without that signature, no bank or vendor will accept the check.

Is the Check Dated?

Similarly, the check will also need to be dated by the payee and cannot be cashed otherwise.

Is There a Security Number?

There should be a security number on the check, usually in the top right corner, although this varies depending on the specific bank. The security number allows your bank to verify the legitimacy of the check. If you are given a check without a security number, this is a clear sign that the check is inauthentic and the payee may be attempting to scam you.

Alternatively, it might simply be a faulty check. Raise the issue with the payee and if this is the case, they are likely to be more than happy to provide you with a new, valid check.

Make Sure There Are No Errors or Misspellings

If a name is misspelled or an incorrect amount or date is given on a check, the check will not be valid. It might be possible to rectify this if the mistake is minor, otherwise, you will need to ask the payee for a new check without any mistakes.

Decide How You Want to Cash Your Check

After establishing that your check is authentic and valid, you will need to decide how you wish to cash your check. There are a number of ways to cash a check and the great thing is that as the world and our banking habits have become increasingly digitized, so have our check cashing methods. It is becoming increasingly convenient to cash checks. Here are some of the most popular methods:

Cash Your Check with a Teller

The most common way of cashing a check is to head down to your bank’s local branch and have the teller cash the check there and then. Large banks usually have branches in most cities, and you can find your nearest one by checking your bank’s website or giving them a call. When cashing or depositing your check in the branch, you’ll probably need to bring along a valid form of identification such as a driver’s license and it’s also a good idea to bring your debit card as this can save time filling out extra forms and paperwork.

Banks don’t charge for depositing or cashing checks, although some won’t allow immediate cash-out on checks from other banks. In this case, you’ll need to have the check deposited into your bank account. This just protects the bank in the event that the check bounces.

Cash Your Check at an ATM

ATMs are also a popular way of cashing checks. Not all ATMs offer this service; generally speaking, you’ll need to go to an ATM that is linked to your bank in order to cash your check, although this isn’t always the case. When depositing your check through an ATM, you won’t need to show ID but you will, of course, need your debit card and PIN to access your account and cash the check.  

Cash Your Check with a Retailer

Some retailers also offer check cashing services. These are typically larger stores but some smaller grocery stores will also accept checks from sources that they deem to be reliable. They might not accept personal checks but are likely to take checks from employers or the state.

Most retailers do charge a fee for cashing checks, so that’s worth bearing in mind. Generally, this amount will depend on the amount being cashed, so if you have a large sum of money to cash, this might not be your best option.

Deposit Your Check Using an App or Website

Alternatively, you might choose to cash your check electronically. Lots of banks have excellent apps and websites these days that offer many of the services you could access in-branch. One of these services is electronic check depositing.

In most cases, you’ll need to use an app to scan in the check. The check will then be verified and deposited into your bank account. This method can take a little longer, particularly if the check is handwritten or has some damage, but it is by far the most convenient option in most cases.

Use a Prepaid Card

Prepaid cards are becoming increasingly popular and more and more banks are beginning to offer these to their customers. Essentially, a prepaid card acts in a similar way to a gift card. The card is not linked to a bank account, but it is loaded with a set amount of money. Once this amount runs out, you can reload the card in-branch or at an ATM.

Checks can be deposited directly onto the prepaid card using either of these methods. Lots of people choose to use prepaid cards over regular debit or credit cards, as a prepaid card makes it impossible to overspend and any checks or cash deposited on to the card are usually available to use immediately, making it an extremely safe and convenient option.

Will These Methods Still Work if the Check is Torn or Damaged?

This is the big question – can you still cash in your check using these methods if the check is damaged or torn?

In short, this will depend on the extent of the damage and your specific bank. It is absolutely possible to cash a damaged check, but some methods are likely to have more success than others. Let’s assess which is likely to be your best option…

Tellers

In most cases, this is likely to be your best bet when it comes to cashing a damaged check. By heading into your bank directly you’re likely to receive the best advice and guidance when it comes to cashing your check. Your bank might be able to contact the payee or the bank listed on the check directly to verify its validity. Alternatively, they may be able to repair the check for you so that it is able to be cashed.

Speaking to a real person in this situation is likely to give the best results, as they are more able to understand and overcome the situation than an ATM or digital deposit system.

Whether or not the teller is able to cash the check will depend on the policies of the specific bank – some will not accept any checks even with minor damage – and the level of damage to the check. If the check is deemed unusable, you will need to contact the payee and request a replacement check.

ATMs

You might be able to cash in a damaged check using an ATM, but again this depends on the level of damage. The ATM might reject the check or it may be passed on to a teller for further assessment. Either way, this is unlikely to be the quickest way of cashing a damaged check. It’s also possible that you could end up having to go into the branch regardless to provide further information and fill out additional paperwork. You could also end up losing the check if the ATM malfunctions, which will make it significantly more difficult to seek a replacement from the payee. 

Retailers

Retailers are unlikely to accept damaged checks as it poses a risk to them if the bank refuses to pay out for the check. This probably isn’t a great option when it comes to cashing a torn check.

Digital Deposits

It could be worth trying to deposit the check electronically using your bank’s app or website. As long as all of the important information such as the name, signature, date, amount, and security number is still visible, the electronic system should be able to register the check. This is a good option if the check is torn but can be placed back together in a way that all of this information is visible, however for damage like spills or smudges, this might be less effective.

The Best Way to Cash a Torn or Damaged Check

All in all, your best option when it comes to cashing a damaged or torn check will depend on the level of damage to the check and your bank’s policy.

If the damage level is minimal or can be easily rectified, try depositing your check digitally. If the damage is more detrimental, it’s definitely worth heading into your local branch and asking for their advice. You might still end up needing to request a replacement check from the payee, but it’s worth a try and these two methods are definitely the most likely to give you the result you are looking for.

Trying to cash a damaged check using an ATM or a retailer is unlikely to be successful and could result in more stress and time spent worrying about the situation.

Is it Possible to Repair a Torn Check?

Repairing a torn check might be possible but it’s not advisable that you attempt this prior to contacting your bank.

Trying to tape or stick the check back together might result in further damage and could end up making it even more difficult for the check to be processed. When you take the check into your local branch they might decide to repair the check themselves but it’s always best to let them do this rather than attempting to do it yourself.

If the check can be placed back together and deposited electronically, there might be no need to repair the check. However, if the damage has been caused by liquids being spilled or ink being smudged, for example, it may be more difficult to repair the check and you may need to request a replacement.

Most payees should be happy to provide you with a replacement check in the event that the initial check becomes damaged and unusable. They might ask that you return the check to them or that you provide proof that the check has been destroyed simply to assure them that the first check will not be cashed. So always keep hold of the damaged check until you have spoken to the payee about acquiring a replacement.

Conclusion

Having a damaged check can be extremely stressful and might result in a number of sleepless nights worrying about whether or not you will receive your payment. It is clear, though, that you have a number of different options in this scenario.

Before trying to repair the check yourself or throwing it away and resigning yourself to the fact that the money has been lost, assess your options fully and use the steps listed in this article to give yourself the best chance of cashing the check successfully and receiving your payment.