Can You Cash a Ripped Check?

Summary:

Whether or not you can cash a ripped check depends on the extent of the damage. Generally speaking, you can cash a ripped or torn check, or one that is otherwise damaged, as long as the required information is still legible. And, of course, it needs to be a valid check.

Maybe you accidentally ripped up a check thinking you had already submitted it by mobile deposit, spilled your coffee on it, or you received a torn or damaged check by mail. Can you still cash this check? While you probably can, the answer depends on how badly the check is damaged.

Today we’ll discuss what to do if you have a ripped check, how to assess the damage and your options for how to deposit or cash a ripped check. In addition, we’ll take a look at ways you can avoid dealing with a torn check in the future.

Can you cash a ripped check?

As mentioned, in most cases, you probably can cash a torn or ripped check, especially if the damage doesn’t obscure any of the necessary check information. The following items are required on a valid check:

  • Name of payer
  • Signature of payer
  • Name of payee (you)
  • Date
  • Dollar amount of the check (written in numbers and spelled out)
  • Account number
  • Routing number

Payer’s name

The name of the entity or person who wrote the check should be printed on the top left-hand corner of the document. A personal check will have an individual’s name on it, while a business check will have the company name printed on it. It could also be a cashier’s check from a bank or a government check.

If I write you a check and it bounces, you will only have to pay a fee as long as you haven’t spent the money yet. But if you accidentally deposit a fake check, you’ll be held responsible for the total amount, and probably never get your money back from the scammer,” explains Edith, a customer service representative with Huntington National Bank.

Pro Tip

Be wary if the check is blank where the person or company’s name should be. This might be a sign of check fraud. Don’t cash a check unless it’s clear who it’s coming from and you trust the source. If the check bounces, you could be on the hook for the full amount.

Signature of payer

A paper check isn’t valid without a signature. An unsigned check cannot be cashed because the bank uses the signature to verify the correct person wrote the check and it hasn’t been stolen.

Be sure the signature is present on the damaged check. If that piece of the document was torn off and lost, for instance, you won’t be able to cash the check even if the rest of the necessary information is visible.

Name of payee

A valid check must also be made out to someone; in this case, that would be you. That’s why financial institutions or check cashing places ask for your driver’s license — to verify the correct person is cashing the check.

One exception is if the check is made out to “cash,” in which case anyone is able to cash the check.

IMPORTANT! If you’re ever in possession of a check made out to cash, be sure to deposit it or cash it right away. If it’s lost or stolen, anyone can cash it and you’ll never see the money.

The check’s date

The date on the check is also important but may not present a problem when cashing or depositing. Without the check’s date, banks have no way of knowing when the check was issued.

Checks are considered invalid after six months, although most banks will probably honor checks older than that. Still, a bank legally doesn’t have to accept a check older than 180 days, so it’s just sensible to cash any checks you receive as soon as you can.

Check amount

The dollar amount of the check is written in two places, both in numerals and in words. Obviously, a bank needs to see the amount the check is written for in order to cash it. However, it’s important to know that if there is a discrepancy between the two, the amount that’s spelled out takes precedence.

Account and routing number

In order for a bank to deposit a ripped check (or any check for that matter), the account number and routing number must be clearly printed at the bottom of the document.

If the damaged check has gotten wet, for example, and smeared the check paper so the numbers are unreadable, it can’t be cashed. In that case, you should politely explain the problem to the check writer and request a replacement check.

Assessing the damaged check

If you determine that some or all of the above information is illegible or ambiguous and you think a bank won’t cash it, request a replacement check as soon as possible. In some cases, you may be required to pay a fee for the replacement check, but that’s definitely preferable to sacrificing the money altogether.

Best ways to cash a ripped check

If you have a damaged check, your options for depositing or cashing it are pretty much the same as with any other valid check. However, some options may not be viable choices depending on the type and extent of the damage.

Mobile deposits

If your bank accepts mobile deposits, which most banks do these days, you may be able to deposit the check electronically through a mobile app. To make a mobile deposit of a ripped check, be sure to carefully align the pieces together so the app can read the whole check.

Also, don’t attempt to repair the check before scanning it. A taped check may interfere with the scanner’s ability to “read” the check properly.

If your current checking account doesn’t accept mobile deposits, it may be time to find an account that does. Take a look at some of the accounts below to get started.

IMPORTANT! If the check is otherwise damaged — such as by stains, burn marks or water damage — and it’s difficult to read, you may need to take it directly to a bank to see what they think.

Deposit through your bank’s ATM

Depositing checks through the ATM of your usual institution branch is a convenient way to securely submit your check and have it deposited directly to your bank account. Plus, you can do it any time of the day or night, regardless of whether the bank is open or not. If your check is just stained but still readable, you may be able to cash it this way.

However, in the case of a torn or ripped check, depositing through an ATM may not be physically possible. In that case, you’ll probably need to go into your local branch during business hours or try another method, such as a mobile deposit.

Go to your local branch

If you have a torn, ripped, or damaged check, your best bet is to take it to your local branch and have the bank teller assess whether the check is still valid or not. Though policies may vary on how much damage they’ll tolerate, most financial institutions will allow you to cash or deposit it if the pertinent information is still legible.

Keep in mind that, naturally, institutions are going to be concerned with check fraud, so damaged checks will definitely receive a lot of scrutiny. That said, if this is your regular bank and the check comes from a known source (like your regular payroll check), most banks will grant you a little more leeway.

Visit the bank of the check issuer

If you don’t have your own bank account, you may need to visit the nearest branch of the institution that issued the check. At the very least, they can determine the check came from that institution, and may even be able to cash it even if some of the information is obscured.

For example, if the account numbers are obscured, they may be able to verify what they are just by looking them up by the check writer’s name.

Pro Tip

Be aware that banks are not required to cash checks for customers who don’t have an account with them. In that case, you may need to seek another alternative.

Cash it at a local retailer

Some retailers, like grocery stores, some gas stations, or big-box chains, will cash ripped checks for you if needed. There’s typically a small fee involved, and there may be limits on the size of the check and type allowed. However, this is a valid option for those without a bank account or other means of cashing it.

Go to a check cashing store or currency exchange

Places such as currency exchanges, check cashing stores, or payday loan lenders may be able to cash a ripped check for you — assuming it’s only minor damage and all the info is there. Unfortunately, they usually charge high fees for the service.

In general, this is probably your most expensive option to cash a torn check and should be considered your last resort. If possible, save money and go to a retail store instead if you’ve exhausted all other methods.

How to avoid a torn or ripped check

In some cases you won’t be able to avoid receiving payment by paper check, but it’s worth asking around to see if the check writer has alternative methods of payment.

Direct deposits

Direct deposit is a payment method (often used for payroll) that deposits money directly into your bank account rather than receiving and cashing a physical check. This is a convenient way to get your money fast, but you should proceed with caution. To sign up for it, you need to reveal some critical information that you definitely don’t want to fall into the wrong hands.

When you authorize someone to pay you by direct deposit, you must provide them with banking information, including the name of the institution plus your account number and routing number. In some cases, you’ll also need to present a canceled check, deposit slip, or other verification to ensure the money is going to the correct bank account.

Payroll cards

If you don’t have a bank account or prefer not to get a paper check or have the money deposited directly into your checking account, you can see if your employer has a payroll card option available.

A payroll card works just like a debit card, except it’s an arrangement between your employer and a financial institution where employee wages are loaded onto payroll cards rather than deposited directly or issued by paper checks. It can be a nice alternative for employees, particularly if they don’t have an account.

Peer-to-peer payment apps

Another option to avoid getting physical checks is to utilize one of the many peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps, like PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle. These allow you to receive payments from anyone, without the possible risks of paper checks getting badly damaged.

This is a much safer way to receive payments because you don’t have to give out any sensitive banking information to the payer. All you need to do is provide your linked email address or mobile number.

Pro Tip

It’s important to know that while it’s typically safe to receive money through these P2P apps, you only want to send money this way to people you know and trust. The reason for that is it’s essentially like sending cash. For example, if you buy something from an unknown vendor and something goes wrong — or the seller is actually a scammer — you have very little recourse to get your money back.

To see which money transfer services people prefer, take a look at some of the services below and compare.

Prepaid cards

Finally, you might have the option to receive payment with a prepaid card instead of a physical check. (For example, rebates often come as prepaid cards now, rather than physical checks.) Plus, it’s much less likely that a sturdy prepaid card will get damaged in transit.

This payment method isn’t always a possibility, and you probably shouldn’t accept a prepaid card from an unfamiliar source. That said, it can be a nice alternative in certain situations. Then all you have to do is activate by phone or online and use it just like your debit card.

FAQs

Will Walmart cash a torn check?

Walmart does cash checks for its customers, but you’ll have to let them assess the damaged check and determine the check’s validity before knowing for sure if they’re willing to cash it. If the check has severe damage, for instance, they may not do it for fear of check fraud. Below is the list of check types that you can usually get cashed.

  • Pre-printed checks
  • Payroll checks
  • Government checks
  • Tax checks
  • Cashiers’ checks
  • Insurance settlement checks
  • 401(k), retirement disbursement checks
  • MoneyGram money orders
  • Two-party personal checks

It should be noted that not every Walmart will cash personal checks. Before stopping by with your torn check, call or check the website of your local retailer to see if they’ll accept a damaged check.

What happens if I accidentally ripped my check?

It really doesn’t matter if damaged checks are your fault or not. While an institution’s policies can vary, you aren’t penalized for trying to cash a ripped check, unless the damage is severe and the check can’t be verified.

Key Takeaways

  • Torn or damaged checks can usually be cashed as long as the vital information is still visible and legible.
  • Typically, a torn or damaged check can still be cashed if it shows all the critical information. This includes the account number, routing number, check amount, signature, and payee’s name.
  • There are several ways to cash or deposit checks that have been damaged, such as depositing the torn check digitally, cashing it at the issuing institution, or bringing it to your local teller.
  • Your best bet to see if the check is still valid even after severe damage is to let a bank teller at your regular institution assess the damaged check. They can tell you if you’re able to cash it now or if you need to get a new check.
  • In general, you shouldn’t cash checks unless you were expecting them or are sure that the person, business, bank, or financial institution is a legitimate source.
View Article Sources
  1. How To Spot, Avoid, and Report Fake Check Scams — Federal Trade Commission
  2. What is a payroll card? — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  3. How To Verify a Check and Validate Your Funds — SuperMoney
  4. How To Mail a Check Safely and Can You Fold It? — SuperMoney
  5. How to Open a Checking Account — SuperMoney
  6. How to Correctly Write a Check With Cents and Dollars — SuperMoney
  7. Third-Party Check: What It Is and Where To Cash It — SuperMoney
  8. What is a Counter Check? Definition & Example — SuperMoney
  9. What Is a Certified Check, and How Do You Get One? — SuperMoney
  10. Single vs. Duplicate Checks: What Are the Differences? — SuperMoney
  11. How To Deposit a Paper Check on Cash App – Complete Guide — SuperMoney
  12. What is Check Kiting and How Can You Protect Yourself? — SuperMoney