Can You Cash a Ripped Check? [Answered]

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You may be asking yourself: “Can I cash a ripped check?” The answer is not as straightforward as it seems.

It depends on how you are cashing the check, what type of check it is, and how severe the rip was.

Image of check ripped in two with orange text overlay and white text that reads "Can you cash a ripped check?"

A small rip that doesn’t affect the signature or other important information on the check can probably be cashed without a problem. However, if there is a large rip that affects any of this information or makes it challenging to process the check with a machine, the bank may not cash it.

This article will help you to determine if your check can be salvaged if you’ll need to get a new one, and the best way to go about doing so.

Do Banks Think a Ripped Check Is Valid?

Banks are not in the business of taking risks, so if they have any doubt about a check’s validity, they will likely refuse to cash it. There are many reasons why a bank might be unsure about a check, including:

  • The amount on the check does not match the account balance
  • There is no signature or the signature is illegible
  • The check was post-dated
  • It has been altered in any way
  • The check is rejected by the machine when it is run through

In some cases, a bank will cash a ripped check if it’s only mildly damaged. However, this decision is left up to the bank’s discretion and is not guaranteed. You may want to contact your bank to find out their specific policies and how to proceed in this case.

If you send an email to their customer support team, you can attach a photo of the check so they can assess it and get an idea of its condition. Otherwise, you can give them a call or visit your local branch in person.

Types of Rips & Tears on a Check

Since checks are such delicate pieces of currency, there are several ways that they can become damaged or compromised. Here are some of the types of issues you may experience with a damaged check:

  • A small tear or rip that doesn’t affect any of the important information on the check
  • A large tear or rip that affects signature, date, amount, etc.
  • A hole in the check caused by a staple or paper clip
  • Water damage such as warping or staining
  • The signature or other important information on the check is smudged or unreadable
  • The tear/rip is too severe for the machine to process it
  • A corner or part of the check has been torn off.
  • There are ink marks on the front or back of the check – including when someone tried to make out what was written in the amount line
  • The check is torn or ripped in half.
  • The check has been completely crumpled or folded many times
  • The check is dissolving or extremely thin from going through the washing machine

If you are experiencing any of these issues, there’s a good chance your bank will not accept the check. However, some of these issues are more salvageable than others.

Read on to learn how you can try to repair your check and cash it at the bank.

Ways To Try to Repair the Check

If you need to try to repair your check, here are some of the most common ways that people choose to do so.

Attempt To Tape The Check Together Again

The first step is simply trying to tape or glue the check back together with clear adhesive tape.

If it’s just a small tear in one corner, this may be the best solution. Make sure the tape is completely transparent and doesn’t obscure any of the writing on the check.

If There’s a Hole, Try to Patch It with Plastic or Paper

If there’s a hole in your check from a staple or paper clip, you can try to patch it up by using some plastic or paper.

This will only work if the section didn’t have any important information on it such as the signature, date, or amount. Cut a small piece of plastic or paper and tape it over the hole.

Use the smallest, most minimal piece of paper and tape you can, so that it has the slightest impact on the check as possible. Make sure to use a neutral or white color when using a piece of paper so it blends in well and is readable.

If There’s a Smudge, Try to Clean It Off

In some cases, you can simply clean off any smudges on the check with a small amount of water and mild soap. However, this only works for minor smudges.

You can use a Q-tip or small towel to dab at the smudge gently, and make sure it doesn’t get wet enough to warp or dissolve.

Sometimes an eraser can lift ink or debris off of a surface as well. Just make sure that the eraser isn’t too abrasive and it doesn’t damage the check in any other way.

Gently and patiently rubbing at the ink should do the trick. White erasers and kneaded erasers work better than traditional pink erasers.

Tape a Ripped Check Back Together

If your check is torn in half or ripped apart, you can try to tape it back together. Be very careful to align the check perfectly so that all of the information on the check is visible.

Use a clear lightweight tape that can protect the ripped seam while still allowing the check to be processed.

Make sure that both sides of the tape are perfectly transparent and don’t obscure any writing on the torn check, especially where you’re going to sign it.

Start out by taping a small amount of the check together. This way, if you mess up, you don’t have to peel the tape back and further damage the surface of the paper.

Once you have a small starter piece that holds the check fragments in place, you can then use a larger piece along the whole torn seam.

If the Check is Warped, Try to Iron It Flat

If the check has been damaged by water and is warped as a result, you can try to iron it flat. You may be able to cash it if it is flat and legible.

Place a thin towel over the check, then use a low-heat setting on your iron. Make sure not to press too hard or the heat may affect the ink on the check paper.

Do this process in small amounts at a time and regularly check the check to make sure you don’t accidentally warp it more.

You can also try using a hairdryer on the cool setting to help flatten out the check, but use caution as you do not want to melt or damage the paper.

Flatten a Check By Pressing It Between Books

If you have two clean hardcover books, you can place the check between them and press down.

Use a heavy object on top of the books to help flatten it out. Leave it for a few hours or overnight to ensure that the check is completely flat.

How to Cash a Torn Check

If the check is torn but still legible, there are plenty of ways you can try to cash it:

Deposit the Check at the Institution That Holds Your Bank Account

Bring the torn or damaged check to your bank, and ask the teller if you can deposit it. They are more likely to help you if you have a trust relationship with your bank and frequent the same branch.

If You’re With Another Bank, Ask to Speak to a Branch Manager

If it is an out-of-state check or another financial institution’s check, ask if someone in management can help cash the torn check for you. Tell them what happened and show them that both halves of the check are present.

Cash Your Check at a Store That Accepts Checks

There are several stores in most cities that will cash checks with you for small fees; these places include retail outlets like Wal-Mart, grocery stores like Safeway or Albertsons, and pharmacies like Rite Aid or CVS. You can also try a general check-cashing store that specializes in cashing checks.

Get a Prepaid Card or Debit Card

Depending on how long it’s been since you wrote the check, getting a prepaid card or debit card with cashback might be an option.

This is most common at CVS and Rite Aid, but some Wal-Mart locations also have this service available.

There are often fees that are associated with these cards, so be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully before you sign up.

This will be in the form of a percentage and/or a flat service fee, depending on the person or company you go through.

Cash It in an ATM

If you have an ATM debit card, you can try to cash the check at an ATM.

Not all ATMs will accept damaged checks, so it is best to try an ATM that is associated with the bank that issued the check. If the bank isn’t able to accept your check after an ATM deposit, you will receive a notice in the mail stating as such and the check will be returned to you.

If the check is valid, the financial institution that holds your account will then deposit the funds into your account.

Use Digital Deposit Services

Many banks, especially larger institutions, make it so that you are able to cash the check digitally from the comfort of your own home, using your cell phone.

This service is known as remote deposit, and you will need to download an app from your financial institution’s website.

After taking a picture of the front and back of the check, the deposited funds should be available in your account within a few business days.

This is one of the most convenient ways to cash a check if your bank has this service available.

If you have a damaged check that is still legible, you should still be able to deposit it with many problems. Just make sure that the check is flat so that it can be clearly photographed and that all the information is legible.

Ask For a Replacement Check

If you want to guarantee that you have a valid pass and bypass spending time trying to convince the banks and tellers to be able to cash the check, you should request a replacement check from the issuer.

If you’re dealing with personal checks, it should be simple to contact the person who wrote the check to request a new one.

If the check is from a company, you will need to contact the issuer directly. You will likely be directed to the finance department, where you can request a new check.

This is helpful if your check is almost expired and you need one with a new date on it.

Request a Direct Deposit

If you have recurring bills or regularly deposit your paycheck into your checking account, ask your bank if they offer direct deposit services.

This is a service where the financial institution will electronically send money to another company or individual on a set schedule. This can be done through email, text message, or an app on your phone.

You will need your account number and routing number the first time that you set up your direct deposit. Many institutions will also require a driver’s license number or a social security number as well.

After you set up your direct deposit, the money should be transferred to the other company or individual within one to two business days.

Important Information on a Check

One of the most important factors that determine whether a bank will accept your check is the legibility of important information.

This is usually more important than the condition of the paper itself since this information is what will verify you as the legitimate recipient of the funds.

Here is the important information that needs to be legible when you’re depositing damaged checks:

  • The payee name
  • The check’s date
  • The account number
  • The routing number
  • The check number
  • Amount of the check
  • The endorsement

If any of this information is missing or illegible, it could result in the check being declined.

How To Avoid Damaging Your Checks

It is important to handle checks with care, as even a small tear can render the check invalid.

Here are some tips on how to avoid damaging your checks:

Always Use a High-Quality Pen

When signing a check, always use a pen. This will help to avoid any ink smudging or bleeding that can occur when you handle the check.

You can invest in a pen that is specifically designed for checks, as they usually have a finer point and less ink than a regular pen. These won’t bleed or run as much as other pens either.

Be Gentle With Checks

It is important to handle checks with care, as even a small tear can render the check invalid.

A good rule of thumb is to never bend or crease your checks when you are carrying them around in your wallet or purse.

It’s best if you keep everything flat and avoid stuffing it into tight spaces such as your pocket or a purse.

Store Checks in a Safe Place

Make sure to store your checks in a safe place, such as in a checkbook holder or an envelope. This will help to protect them from getting wet, wrinkled, or torn.

You can also use a filing cabinet or a safety deposit box for added protection.

Cash Your Check As Soon As Possible

Whenever you receive a check, it is important to cash it as soon as possible. This will help prevent any damage that could occur from being left out in the open or lying around for too long.

It’s also helpful to cash the check as soon as possible to make sure you don’t wait too long when the check is expired. A valid check will expire six months after the issue date.

You may think this is a long time, but you would be surprised by how long it sometimes takes people to be able to cash their check at the bank. It’s best to avoid any potential issues and just go ahead and take care of it as soon as you receive the check.

Don’t Carry Your Check Around With You

It is best to cash your check as soon as possible. However, this isn’t always realistic and you may need a few days or weeks before you can make it to the bank.

When this happens, try not to carry your checks around with you for too long. This will help keep them in good condition until they can be deposited in your bank account.

Designate an area in your home where you can keep all of your checks until it is time to cash them.

Keep Your Check In Your Wallet

If you are going to be carrying your check around with you, it is best to keep it in your wallet. This will help to protect it from getting wet or wrinkled.

Make sure that your wallet is in good enough condition that it won’t rip, tear, dirty, or smudge the valid check while you are carrying it.

Cashing a Damaged Check: FAQ

Do Banks Accept Ripped Checks?

If you’re wondering can you cash a ripped check at your bank, the answer depends on both the condition of your check as well as the bank policies.

Banking institutions use a special machine to determine if the check can be processed.

If there’s any sort of damage to it or anything that makes it difficult to deposit the check (such as smudged words), then they will likely reject your attempt at depositing the check.

This helps to regulate the process and to prevent mail fraud, which is when someone trying to get a check cashed has tampered with the letter in some way.

You should be aware that if you try to deposit a ripped check, it may cause your account to be flagged for potential fraud.

Does Walmart Cash Ripped Checks?

The answer to this question depends on the condition of your check.

Walmart will cash checks that are torn or ripped in half, but they aren’t able to process anything that has been burned or is otherwise damaged beyond repair.

As mentioned above, if your ripped check isn’t legible, Walmart will likely not be able to process it.

If the check is still valid and has all of the necessary information, then Walmart should be able to cash it for you without any problems.

Will a Damaged Check Go Into an ATM?

If you’re going to cash a ripped check at an ATM, you will need to make sure that it is extremely flat and easy to read. You may be able to cash the check, but you may run into issues in your bank account if the check can’t be verified by your bank.

If there are small torn or damaged areas on the edges of your check or subtle creases, this shouldn’t be a big problem. But if there is more moderate to severe damage, then there is a chance that the check won’t be able to go through.

At this point, it’s probably best to take your torn check to your local bank branch and try to process it there.

Is Cashing a Torn Check Considered Check Fraud?

In most cases, you won’t be committing check fraud if your ripped or torn check is a valid one. Many people try to cash a check that may be in less than perfect condition, since they are so delicate in the first place.

However, the bank may choose to flag your account for potential issues and it might cause some difficulties when trying to deposit checks in the future.

This is why it’s best when you deposit your checks at your own bank so that they trust and are familiar with your account.

To avoid accidentally committing check fraud, try to keep your checks in good condition and only carry them around when you absolutely need to.

If they are illegible or are missing writing from the issuer, don’t try to write it in. This may be considered a forgery, which is a criminal act.

It may feel inconvenient, but taking the time to get a replacement check is the best way to ensure you’re able to cash it without any legal problems.

Final Thoughts – Can You Cash a Ripped Check?

It can be tricky to cash a ripped check, but with a bit of know-how, you should be able to get the job done. Just make sure that your check is in good condition and easy to read, and take the check to an ATM or bank branch if there are any major issues.

If you have any other questions about cashing checks, be sure to contact your local bank or the institution that issued the check in the first place. They should be able to help guide you through the process and answer any of your questions.


About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.