Unlike a personal check, a bank has certified that your check will go through
Only banks and credit unions issue cashier’s checks, so consider a money order if you don’t have a bank account
The fee to get a cashier’s check is around $10
If a cashier’s check is lost or stolen, it’s probably impossible to recoup the money within 90 days
When you write a personal check, the person you pay has to hope you have enough in your account. If you don’t have enough, the check will bounce and they end up empty-handed. To prove that a check is legitimate and the payment will go through, you may want to use a cashier’s check.
A cashier’s check is issued by a bank (or credit union) and the payment is guaranteed because it’s drawing from the bank’s own funds, instead of from someone’s personal account. To get a cashier’s check, you provide the necessary funds to the bank, plus a fee of about $10, and then the bank writes the check.
Because cashier’s checks are paid by an actual bank, there’s little risk that they’ll bounce. It’s most common to use a cashier’s check when you don’t know someone or when you have to make a large payment, like the down payment on a house.
Some banks use different terminology, so your bank may offer a teller’s check, official check, certified check, or bank check. While some of these terms technically describe slightly different products, they are all checks that a bank has guaranteed, and many banks use them interchangeably.
Only banks and credit unions issue cashier’s checks so you will have a difficult time getting one if you don’t have a bank account. Instead you may want to consider a money order. Money orders are available from more places, including convenience stores and post offices. They also cost less, with a fee around $2 or $3.
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When to use a cashier’s check
There’s little risk that a cashier’s check doesn’t go through and so it’s a safe way to make large payments where cash is unrealistic and and you can’t use a credit or debit card. If you’re buying a car or if you are making the down payment on a house, you may be required to pay with a cashier’s check.
You may also want to use a cashier’s check if you’re transferring money from one financial institution to another. That includes if you’re opening a bank account and want to transfer money in person instead of digitally.
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A cashier’s check is also an option if you are receiving a payment from a stranger and want to make sure it goes through. For example, maybe you are selling furniture online and don’t know the buyer. Paying in cash may be an option, but accepting a personal check is probably too risky: By the time you cash or deposit the personal check, the buyer will already have left and you may not be able to do anything if the check bounces.
Can I cash a cashier’s check?
If you are a member of a bank, the bank will usually allow you to cash it if you show a proper ID. However, some banks may only cash the full check amount if it’s written by their own bank. So your bank may only cash a cashier's check if it’s from another branch of your bank.
You can always deposit a cashier’s check and then the funds will be available for you to use within a couple of days.
How to get a cashier’s check
Only banks and credit unions issue cashier’s checks. If you already have an account somewhere, you can visit a branch and ask an employee. Some banks allow you to order cashier's checks online, but you likely need to pay the cost of shipping.
To get a cashier’s check, you will need to provide the following:
exact amount to write on the check
any memo you want on the check
your government-issued ID
payment for the check
Cashier’s checks are written by the bank when they’re created; you cannot get a blank check to fill in later. So in order to give you a check, the bank will need to know the exact payment amount and the exact name of the payee, whether it’s a person or business. You can also include a memo on the check if you’d like, just as with personal checks.
Your bank will require at least one form of personal identification, such as a driver’s license, passport, green card, or other government-issued ID.
Finally, you need to pay both the amount of the check and the fee for the check. If you have an account with the bank, like a savings or checking account, you can take money from there. The bank will either withdraw it immediately or freeze the money until the check is used. You can also pay with cash.
Regardless of how you pay, make sure you get a receipt. This is proof that you paid for the check and could be useful if there’s any type of fraudulent activity later on.
The cost of a cashier’s check
Fees vary by bank but you can expect to pay a fee around $10 to get a cashier’s check. If you are getting your check online, you may need to pay more to cover shipping.
The following table lists the fees for a cashier’s check at major banks, current as of June 26, 2019.
|Bank||Cashier's check fee|
|Ally Bank||Free (order online)|
|Bank of America||$15|
|BB&T||$10 for an official check|
|Capital One 360||$20 online (includes overnight shipping); $10 in branch|
|Citibank||$10 for an official check|
|Santander||$10 for an official bank check|
Can you waive the fee?
In some cases, your bank will waive the fee. This is usually an option for “preferred” customers who have specific types of accounts or more than a certain amount on deposit with the bank. You may also get a waiver for meeting other criteria, such as being former military service members.
Getting a cashier’s check without a bank account
If you don’t have a bank account, you might have a difficult time getting a cashier’s check. Many banks require you to be a customer to get one. If you aren’t interested in creating a bank account, your best bet is to call local banks to ask if they issue cashier’s checks to non-customers. If you actually get the check, you will need to pay for it with cash.
You should also consider another payment method, like a money order, if you don’t have a bank account.
Alternatives to cashier’s checks
There are a few alternatives to cashier’s checks, depending on how much money you’re sending and where you’re sending it.
If you’re making a big payment, a money order is probably your best bet. Money orders are similar to cashier’s checks. They’re written by a third party, in a certain amount, and they’re guaranteed to go through (assuming you have a legitimate check) because you have to pay for them when you write them.
You can get a money order from many places, including your bank, the post office, convenience stores, grocery stores, and Western Union. The fee for a money order is usually just $2 or $3. You can also pay with a debit or credit card. The potential downside to a money order is that the maximum payment you can send is $1,000 at a time.
If you need to move money as quickly as possible, a wire transfer is a viable option. It’s usually the fastest way to move money, but you pay for that convenience at $30 or more per transfer. Wire transfers are particularly useful if you need to send money internationally.
If you can transfer money digitally, consider an ACH payment. This is a type of digital payment that typically has no fee and takes only a couple of days to process. It’s a good option if you’re moving money from one bank to another.
Similarly, there are a number of digital services if you’re paying small amounts to others. Examples include PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle.
Canceling a cashier’s check
It isn’t usually possible to cancel a cashier’s check within 90 days. That means if you lose a check and someone else cashes it, you will lose your money.
If you do lose a cashier’s check, notify your bank immediately. You can’t stop payment the way you can for a personal check, so someone could very well still cash the check. However, if someone forges your signature on a stolen check, the bank may flag it.
Protip: Do not lose a cashier’s check or you’ll probably lose your money.
You will need to file a declaration of loss form if you lost a cashier’s check and want to get the funds back. After 90 days, if no one has used the check, the bank that issued it will likely pay back the check amount.
Avoiding fraud with cashier’s checks
First and foremost, you should be cautious of any payment you receive from someone you don’t know. If you’re selling something to a stranger, ideally you can send the items after the check has cleared. If you think a check is fake, notify your bank.
If a bank has reason to suspect that a check is fake, they can decline to accept it. For checks over $5,000, the bank can also freeze the funds until they are sure the check is real.
You shouldn’t accept a check worth a different amount than what you agreed to. The most common scam, which you can read about in the next section, involves someone overpaying you. Realistically, someone legitimate is unlikely to overpay you.
When you receive a check, don’t spend any money from a check until your bank has officially cleared the check and you know that the other bank has sent the funds to your account. Otherwise, the check could come back as fake and you’ll have to find a way to cover the money you already used.
A common type of scam
One of the most common scams is for someone to pay with a cashier’s check (or money order) that is in a higher amount than necessary. They tell you it was a mistake or that it was their only payment option and then ask for you to send back the excess.
By the time the bank has notified you that the check was fake, you have already sent them a legitimate payment. And as mentioned above, it’s difficult to recover funds from a cashier’s check.
For example, you might agree to sell something for $800, but then the buyer sends a cashier’s check worth $1,100 and asks you to send back $300. You send the payment before any funds transfer to your bank and then use the $800. A couple of days later, the bank tells you the check was fake and that you need to pay back the $800. Meanwhile, the other party made $300.
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