Free check cashing for the homeless

Seattle is enduring a large-scale homelessness problem. And when homeless people do get paid via check, check cashing locations often take a disproportionate amount of the payment. Could BECU to provide free check cashing services to the homeless? Banks won't do it because they have shareholders; but BECU could, because you're owned by members of the community (like me!) who understand the scale of the homelessness issue in Seattle and who want to help.

I know that not all locations handle cash, but perhaps the Broadway location could be a lighthouse test for offering free check cashing for everyone, including the homeless. It would make me so proud to be part of an organization that helped to address the homeless issue in Seattle. 

I completely support this idea. Saving those few dollars does mean a lot for people living in such unfortunate circumstances. I think by introducing limited teller services BECU can earn a lot of respect in the community and help those in need. Absolutely brilliant idea

I would be cautious of this approach.  Members have already developed a relationship with BECU so we can verify members identity and we have some recourse for retaining funds from a check that does not clear.  We are also much less likely to receive altered or stolen checks from our own members since they can be tracked fairly easily.


I am not in any way stating that homeless are fraudulent or criminal but there are those that meet that definition in every community, including amongst the homeless.


We have a primary obligation to the membership with a community obligation when we can do it safely.  If we can find a way to safeguard our members from the probable losses that would likely be tied to this suggestion then I would by all means be behind having our board explore this option.  I am just wary of feel good measures with damaging outcomes.

Community Manager

Hi @heidimillerful This is an interesting idea when it comes to helping those who don't have a bank. I'll share this idea internally while we explore what existing options are available today. Thanks! JohnS


I also support this. I acknowledge the concern that BD brings up--anyone could claim to be homeless and attempt to cash a fraudulent check, and we all know that scams like this happen all the time. However, I think that the greater good for those who would benefit from a policy change like this is worth the risk. I'm sure that BECU could find some way to verify funds before cashing a check--24 hour hold on the first one for that person? Or something. Good idea Heidi.


As I think about this, I'm trying to strike a balance between the "greater good" (which I wholeheartedly support) and my inherent aversion to risk (which is why the "be cautious" message by @BD resonates with me). 


What if, instead of cashing the check outright, we provided a prepaid card loaded with the amount of the check, BUT the card is locked until the check clears… is that a possibility?  


Implementing this would definitely require some IT processing on the back-end, but if possible, it strikes a reasonable balance between "risk management" for our credit union and "making a difference" for our community.


Community Manager

I really appreciate the thoughtfulness that's taking place in this conversation. @Brianjmix I like where your head is at with your prepaid card idea. When I read this, it got me thinking about the similarities of your idea and our BECU debit card which is linked to a checking account and would have funds availability guidelines already built in. This is great conversation, so thank you to all who've contributed! I'll continue to share comments with internal partners. Thanks! JohnS


No way! fraud is on the rise and i dont want to get my idenity stolden again!!!!


As a former manager of a day labor in Seattle, I agree to the need to support these individuals who need to cash their checks. May even influence them to join the credit union. These workers were paid each day for working on construction sites, cleaning the stadiums during the night after baseball, football or soccer games, or other odds jobs through private companies. These checks were from our corporation so there was no problem with the authenticity of the checks. Many of the workers would have to go to a local store who had a system set up to cash these payroll checks. The store owner knew he would have 50 checks coming in daily and would charge a transaction fee for each. Truly BECU could benefit and should advertise to the day labor companies that they can provide this service for free. 

Community Manager
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