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Paying with a check

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In a world where you can pay with a tap of your phone, checks are becoming an outdated concept. Not all stores accept payment by check and not everyone has a bank account so their use is becoming rarer.

You might think that, because you’ve always used checks, they’re your only option. But there’s so much flexibility in the payment options open to you that now could be the ideal time to change things up.

Where are checks still accepted?

There is still some demand for checks and many people use them. But due to issues with bad checks and fraud involving checks, the number of stores accepting them as payment is decreasing every year.

However there are locations, especially within the Kroger Family of Stores, where you can still use checks with confidence including:

  • Fred Meyer
  • King Soopers
  • Meijer
  • Publix
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Costco
  • Target
  • JC Penney
  • Kohl’s
  • Macy’s
  • TJMaxx
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Barnes & Noble

Some of these stores may have restrictions on the checks they accept and you usually can’t use checks online.

But checks aren’t your only option if you don’t have a bank account and don’t want to carry cash around. A prepaid credit card gives you all the benefits of a card without the need to open a bank account, plus you can track what you have to spend without wondering if that check you wrote last week has been cashed yet.

Why are people moving away from checks?

Technology moves so fast these days that a payment method that relies on a slip of paper seems a little outdated. Now, you can pay with the tap of a card, the swipe of a smartphone or the wave of a watch, and making a payment online can be done at the click of a mouse in a matter of seconds.

But checks do still have a place. Government agencies like the IRS might issue a refund as a paper check, or the water company might send you a refund for an overpayment that way. Don’t forget the $20 birthday check you always get from Grandma in the mail.

But for the most part paying by check, or getting paid by check, comes with lots of risks and issues that can easily be avoided with other payment methods. A check you’re waiting on might bounce, leaving you to contact the person who wrote it for payment. Or, you might think a check has been cashed and your account’s up to date, only to find yourself in the red when the bank finally processes the payment.

If you rely on checks to pay your bills, you run the risk of them getting lost in the mail, or  your check arriving past the payment date, which could mean additional charges on your account or, if it isn’t the first time it’s happened, your water, power or cable being shut off.

Whether the mistake with a check is yours or a person paying you, you’re likely to end up with bank fees you could do without, missed bill payments and potential issues with credit that might take a lot of time to fix.

Prevent check fraud

Check fraud is a real issue and there are lots of ways criminals can get a hold of a check and tamper with it so the money never reaches who it was intended for. If you do need to use checks, there are a few simple steps you can take to avoid check fraud.

  1. Only use checks when you really have to – The fewer checks you write, the fewer problems you’re likely to have, whether that’s balancing your checkbook, missing payment deadlines or having a check go missing in the mail.
  2. Always send checks via an official mailbox or the post office – Putting checks meant to pay your bills in your own mailbox is a risk, as your mail could go missing. This means you miss your payment and risk someone trying to fraudulently cash your check. So always use an official mailbox or service.
  3. Pay your checks through a third party like Money Services – Services like Money Services will pay your bill direct to the biller, with money arriving as soon as possible. If you’re cashing a check, you can get your funds right away, either as cash or on a prepaid credit card, so you’ve got your money when you need it.

What can I use instead of a check?

If you’re not quite ready to move into sending money online just yet, there are alternatives to traditional checks that are safer and easier to track.

Money orders take the money out of your account right away, so there’s no confusion over whether the person you’re paying has cashed it yet. They can then draw on that money order whenever they like, making it a great payment option if you or they don’t have a bank account.

When you request a money order, you’ll need to add the name and address of the person you’re sending it to, as well as the amount you want to pay. This makes it much harder to tamper with if it falls into the wrong hands. You’ll need to go into your local Money Services to request it, but that also means there’s a record so any issues can be followed up and resolved.

Find out more about how to use money orders.

Using your IRS checks

The most common check you’re likely to get is an IRS refund check. That’s great, unless you don’t have a bank account and need your refund in cash. Plus, there’s always a risk you may lose your check.

At Money Services, you can bring in your IRS check in as soon as it arrives and get the credit loaded onto a prepaid card, which you can then use anywhere you could use a standard debit card.

You’ll need to bring along some ID (you can find what’s accepted here) but you’ll be able to get your money in a matter of minutes – whether that’s cash or on a prepaid card.

So, while checks aren’t dead and buried just yet, there are lots of other payment methods that are easier, safer and less likely to land you in trouble. Get peace of mind from being able to monitor your transactions and know your bills are paid on time, every time. Maybe it’s time to retire that checkbook and try something new?

Need help paying in a check or want to look at the alternatives? Find your local Money Services location within the Kroger Family of Stores.

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