Yes, some banks charge to cash checks -- even their own checks

The Philadelphia Inquirerrecently ran an interesting story about a musician who recently received a $150 check from his agent. It was issued by PNC Bank, and so when the musician passed by one of the branches, he decided to go inside and cash the check.

That's when he learned it would be $10 for him to receive his cash.

As Steve Cohen, a professional piano player and a singer, told Inquirer columnist Jeff Gelles, "I've just never seen a bank operate that way."

The article goes onto note that PNC Bank recently upped its fee for noncustomers to cash a PNC check, from $5 to $10.

In any case, this isn't new, unfortunately. In the last few years, particularly, banks have been more aggressive about charging non-customers fees for cash checking, even if the check is made out to their own bank. The Rip-off Report Web site, for instance, is full of such tales and complaints of people wanting to tear their hair out over cash checking charges: $5 seems to be the norm.

What I find surprising is that Cohen actually paid the fee when, according to the story, he has his own bank. The column doesn't explain why he paid it, and since I've never met the guy and don't know his story, I'll assume he had a good reason. In fact, if he was far from his home, maybe he needed the money for transportation and had no choice. I'm not even sure he could have gone to Walmart, because while they charge $3 to cash checks, the checks have to be payroll and government-issued checks.

But the moment he relented and cashed the check, he just gave the bank 6.6% of his income. No wonder he was angry enough to contact The Philadelphia Inquirer. It may not be as good of an alternative as declining to get the check cashed and going elsewhere, but it's close.
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