Let’s say you just had a successful garage sale and turned a whole bunch of clutter into cash. You made a few hundred dollars, and you’re feeling pretty good about your haul. Now there’s just one problem: How do you get that money into your bank account?
The answer depends on where that account is and how soon you need the payment. There are several different ways to deposit cash, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
How and Where to Deposit Cash
If you have an account at a local bank or credit union, there are two main ways to deposit cash. You can go to the bank in person, or you can deposit your cash at an ATM. Both methods are fairly simple and typically free.
If you use an online bank, making a cash deposit is a little more complicated. Typically, it involves multiple steps. First, you have to deposit the cash into a different account or convert it into a different form. After that, you can transfer it into your online account.
At a Traditional Bank or Credit Union
If you have a checking account or savings account at a local financial institution, depositing your cash is easy. Simply take the cash to a bank branch and give it to a teller.
If you belong to a credit union that’s part of the Co-Op Shared Branch network, you can make your deposit at any member branch in the network.
To make a cash deposit, follow these steps:
- Fill out a Deposit Slip. You can use one with your account number pre-printed on it or write it by hand on one of the bank’s slips. These are available in the lobby or at the drive-through. List the amount of cash on the line marked “cash” at the top.
- Make the Transaction. Hand over your cash and the deposit slip to the teller. Watch the teller count the bills to ensure their count is the same as yours.
- Get a Receipt. Double-check the amount on the receipt to make sure it’s correct.
A teller deposit costs nothing, and the money goes into your bank account quickly. But it requires you to get to your local bank or credit union when it’s open, which isn’t always convenient.
At an ATM
If your bank branch is closed, you may be able to deposit your cash at an ATM. However, not all ATMs accept cash deposits, and those that do don’t all work the same way.
Some machines are smart enough to read and count bills. Others require you to put cash in an envelope for a teller to count later. The ATM should have a note on it saying which method to use. If it requires a cash envelope, there should be a stack of them in or near the machine.
To make an ATM deposit, follow these steps:
- Prepare Your Deposit. If the machine uses envelopes, fill out the front of the envelope with any required information. This could include your account number, your name, and the amount to be deposited.
- Seal the Envelope. Insert your cash in the envelope and seal it. If it’s not sealed, there’s a risk your cash could get shredded in the machine.
- Check the Machine. Before inserting your card, check the ATM for signs of skimmers. These are electronic devices attached by thieves that can read your card info so they can use it. If any part of the ATM looks like it doesn’t belong there, don’t use it.
- Make the Transaction. If the machine looks okay, insert your debit card and type in your PIN. Select the account to make your deposit to. Insert the cash or envelope when instructed.
- Take Your Card and Receipt. Before walking away, check your receipt to make sure the ATM deposited the right amount to the right account. This step is especially important with machines that don’t use envelopes because they can miscount. If this happens, contact the bank right away to explain the error. The bank will examine the cash in the ATM to confirm that you really deposited the amount you claimed. However, the discrepancy may take a few days to clear up.
The main advantage of ATM deposits is their convenience, since the ATM is always open. The main problem is that some ATMs aren’t set up to take cash deposits. If yours doesn’t, you can use another bank’s ATM, but expect to pay a bank fee of a couple of dollars.
Another downside is that it takes a little extra time for the money to go into your account, especially with another bank’s ATM. And if the ATM doesn’t use envelopes, there’s a risk of a miscounting error that could be a pain to clear up.
At an Online Bank
If you use an online-only bank, depositing cash into that account is more complicated. There are several ways to do it, but they all either cost money or take extra time — or possibly both.
Deposit and Transfer
Some people like to have both an online bank account with a good interest rate and a more accessible account at a local bank or credit union. If you have both types of account, you can deposit the cash at your local bank branch, then transfer it to your online bank account.
Bank transfers, also known as ACH transfers, are usually free, but they can take a few business days to go through. If you need the money faster, you can do a wire transfer, but most banks charge a steep fee for this service — typically between $10 and $30.
If your local bank offers money transfers through Zelle, this is the best of both worlds. Cash transfers made this way are both fast and free. Other banks offer a similar service called Popmoney, which can usually make the transfer in one business day.
If your bank has a similar partnership, you can deposit cash at any ATM in the network that takes cash deposits. Check the bank’s app to find a nearby ATM. Just remember that all ATM deposits take a little time to make their way into your bank account.
Prepaid Debit Card
If you don’t have either a local bank account or a usable ATM, a prepaid debit card could provide a work-around. You can link the card to your online bank account, load the cash onto the card, and then transfer it.
For this to work, you must use a card that allows cash deposits. Many prepaid cards work with third-party networks available at retail locations such as drugstores, grocery stores, convenience stores, and Walmart.
Another way to get cash onto a prepaid debit card is to use a reload card. This adds yet another step to the process. You purchase a reload card with cash, then add those funds to your prepaid account, and finally transfer them to your online bank account.
Once you have a prepaid card, you can use it repeatedly for cash deposits. However, most cards charge a fee of a few dollars each time you load cash. Some also charge monthly fees that eat into your assets. So if you deposit cash often, this isn’t the best method to use.
Some online banks accept deposits by mail. However, sending cash through the mail isn’t secure. If your letter goes astray, anyone who finds it can simply pocket the cash, and there’s no way to recover it. And many online banks don’t accept cash deposits anyway.
A safer solution is to purchase a money order payable to yourself and mail that. Money orders are available at a variety of locations, including banks, convenience stores, grocery stores, and post offices.
Most locations charge a small fee to buy a money order. For instance, post offices charge $1.45 for up to $500 and $1.95 for $500 to $1,000 (the maximum allowed). On top of that, you’ll need a stamp to mail the money order to your bank, which adds another $0.58. For a small cash deposit, it might not be worth the money.
Some online banks allow you to deposit money orders through mobile check deposit. You just snap a picture of the money order and upload it to your account. That saves postage and time, but not all mobile apps allow it. Check your bank’s policies before you attempt it.
Depositing Money FAQs
Got more questions about how to deposit cash? Look for the answers here.
Which Cash Depositing Method Is Best for Me?
It depends on your priorities. If you want to get the money into your account quickly, a teller deposit is best. This method is also free. But you need to have an account at a local bank or credit union and be able to get there during business hours.
If you don’t want to wait until your bank is open, an ATM deposit is the next most convenient method. But it means waiting a little longer for funds availability.
Finally, if your only bank account is at an online bank, you can choose between a money order and a prepaid debit card. Both methods come with a cost in money and time. A money order is likely to be cheaper, but it also takes longer to reach your account by mail.
When Are Deposited Funds Available?
When you make a teller deposit, the money must be available in your account within two business days. So, if you deposit cash on a Tuesday, you’ll be able to use it for payments and debit card purchases by Thursday at the latest.
It takes a little longer for funds to become available in your account after an ATM deposit. Most banks hold the funds one day longer than they do with teller deposits. The hold could be even longer if you don’t use your own bank’s ATM.
If you’re depositing cash to an online bank account, the fastest method is to deposit locally and then do a Zelle transfer, which takes effect right away. If you deposit cash through an ATM, the transfer could take one extra business day.
If you must do a bank transfer, it can take a few days for the money to reach your account. The same applies with funds transferred through a prepaid debit card. And sending a money order through the mail could be slower still, depending on how far the letter has to travel.
Can You Deposit Money in Another Person’s Bank Account?
Some banks and credit unions allow this. You can go to the branch in person, ask to make a deposit to someone else’s account, and provide a deposit slip with their name and account number.
If your bank does not allow this, you can deposit the money into your own account, then transfer it to your friend’s account using a money transfer app. Some good options include Zelle, PayPal, and Venmo.
How Do You Deposit Large Amounts of Cash?
Teller deposits and ATM deposits are both reasonable ways to deposit cash to a local bank or credit union. A teller deposit offers a little more security because the money never leaves your possession until it’s safely in your bank account. You can confirm right away that the deposit went through with no errors.
If you only have an online bank account, loading the cash to a prepaid debit card is probably easiest. In theory, you can transfer large sums with money orders, but some issuers limit their size. For instance, post offices only sell money orders of up to $1,000. To deposit a larger amount than that, you must purchase several money orders, adding to the price.
You could get a cashier’s check instead, but most banks issue them only to account holders. And if you have an account, it’s easier to deposit the cash into it directly. Then you can transfer it from that account to any other account for free.
Whatever method you use, be aware that federal anti-money-laundering laws require banks to report all cash deposits of $10,000 or more to the IRS. Making a deposit this large could result in a tax audit, which is never fun.
Breaking the big deposit up into several smaller ones won’t help, either. This practice, called “structuring,” is illegal even if you obtained the cash legally. So, if you ever need to receive a payment of $10,000 or more, get it in some form other than cash if at all possible.
Depositing cash at a local bank or credit union is simple. However, if your only bank account is at an online bank, it can be a bit of a hassle. Using prepaid debit cards can be costly, and mailing money orders takes extra time.
Your best option in this situation could be to avoid receiving payments in cash. Nowadays, there are many other forms of payment to choose from, from apps like PayPal and Venmo to old-fashioned paper checks.
As payment apps gain in popularity, it’ll get easier and easier to use them in lieu of cash everywhere — perhaps even at your next yard sale.