A cashier’s check is a check that’s drawn against the bank’s account rather than yours. It’s written in the bank’s name and is typically signed by a teller. The bank is responsible for paying the check to the payee. You pay the bank back the funds needed to cover the check from your account.

There are several scenarios when it makes sense to use a cashier’s check in place of a personal check because of the benefits and protections it offers that you may not enjoy with personal checks. Here’s what you need to know about using cashier’s checks and how to get one.

A cashier’s check is written in the bank’s name rather than yours and signed not by you but by a teller, which means that the bank is guaranteeing its payment.

Why Use a Cashier’s Check to Pay?

A cashier’s check is typically associated with a large payment when the payee wants reassurance that the check won’t bounce. For example, you might use a cashier’s check to:

  • Make a down payment on a home
  • Pay closing costs for a mortgage
  • Buy a car or boat
  • Purchase a piece of land

In other words, they’re not generally used for everyday spending.

A cashier’s check provides a measure of security to everyone involved in the transaction. The payee—the person receiving the funds—knows that the check won’t be returned, as it’s being drawn from the bank’s account. Because cashier’s checks usually have watermarks and require signatures from one or more bank employees, the bank has the reassurance that the check won’t be counterfeited. And you don’t have to worry about sharing your personal checking account information with the payee, as the check isn’t drawn from your account.

There’s one other advantage to the payee of using a cashier’s check: The funds are usually available by the next business day. With a large personal check, the bank might place a hold of several days to allow the check time to clear.

Best Ways to Get a Cashier’s Check

There are three places to get a cashier’s check: visiting a bank branch, going to a credit union, or online.

For all three options, you’ll first need to check the issuer's requirements for providing a cashier’s check. Some banks and credit unions limit cashier’s checks to people who have an account there. If the bank or credit union allows you to get a cashier’s check without having an account, you'll need to come with cash in hand to cover the check account.

Once you’ve identified the bank or credit union branch from which you want to get the cashier’s check—and have verified whether you need an account—the rest is fairly simple. To get a cashier’s check at a branch, you’ll just need to:

  • Get your information together. You’ll need the exact name of the payee and the amount for the check. You’ll also need to have a picture ID to verify your identity and any notes you want to include on the check regarding what the payment is for.
  • See a teller. A teller can supply you with a cashier’s check. Again, just be ready to show your ID and provide the name of the payee and the check amount. If you’re a current customer of the bank or credit union, you’ll need to specify to the teller the account from which the funds for the check should be drawn. If you’re not a customer, you’ll need to pay the check amount in cash.
  • Pay any applicable check fee. Most banks and credit unions charge a fee for cashier’s checks. The fees at some of the largest banks range from $6 to $10, although your bank may charge more or less. You may be able to get free cashier’s checks if you have a premium checking, savings, or money market account at the bank.

Your bank or credit union may also offer cashier’s checks online. If it does, you’ll need to log in to its website and select the account you’d like to use for the check. Depending on the institution's menu navigation, the option to order a cashier’s check online may be included under the “Order Checks” tab. You then follow the menu prompts, which means adding in the payee’s name, the amount, and any notes you want to include. The check will be mailed to the payee, which will likely take longer than you getting the check in person and then delivering it.

Get a Receipt

Always get a paper or digital receipt for any cashier’s checks you get. Your receipt verifies proof of payment, and it’s something you’ll want to have if a cashier’s check is lost or stolen.

Are There Cashier’s Check Alternatives?

If you don’t want to write a personal check—and a payee won’t accept a cashier’s check—there are other options for making large payments.

Money Orders

A money order isn’t a check, but it is a secure form of payment. You purchase the money order for a specific dollar amount and write it out to the payee. He or she takes it to the bank and either deposits or cashes it.

Compared to a cashier’s check, a money order may be less expensive. The U.S. Postal Service, for example, offers them for less than $2.50. They’re also more convenient to get, as you’re not limited to finding them at banks and credit unions. You can purchase money orders at the post office, supermarkets, and some gas stations. And you don’t need a bank account to get a money order; you just need to have the cash to cover the money order and the fee.

Certified Checks

Certified checks are like cashier’s checks, but they’re drawn directly against your account. It’s essentially still a personal check, but it’s signed by both you and the bank. That means the bank guarantees the amount of the check to the payee. However, if there are insufficient funds in your account to cover it, you’ll have to pay any associated fees the bank charges.

A certified check may be less secure than a cashier’s check. These checks may not have the same watermarks, making them easier to duplicate. In general, though, a certified check is still a more secure way to pay than a money order or a personal check.

Wire Transfers

Wire transfers are a third cashier’s check alternative to consider. With a wire transfer, money is sent electronically directly from your account to someone else’s, with no check needed. That’s a low-stress way to send money, but there are some downsides.

For one thing, wire transfers can be more expensive than cashier’s checks, certified checks, or money orders. Depending on the bank and where the money is going, you may pay between $14 to $50 to execute a wire transfer.

The other drawback is that wire transfers aren’t always instant. It can take several days for an international wire transfer to be completed, which may not be convenient for your payee if the money is needed quickly.

Social Payment Apps

Social payment apps may be useful for sending money to friends and family. With these apps, you can send money to someone’s email address or phone number by using your bank account, debit card, credit card, or a balance you have in the app. Transfers can be instant and—depending on where the money for the transfer comes from—you may pay zero fees.

Watch Out for Transfer Limits

Some apps limit how much you can send in a single transaction and per day. If you have a large amount to send, you may be better off looking at a cashier’s check or one of the other options mentioned above.

What If a Cashier’s Check Is Lost or Stolen?

If you purchase a cashier’s check and lose it, or it’s stolen, you’re not completely at a loss. You can ask the bank to reissue the check. The caveat is that the bank may ask for an indemnity bond first. This bond makes you liable for the check’s replacement. And it’s not an instant process. Depending on the bank, you may have to wait 30 to 90 days to receive a replacement cashier’s check.

The Bottom Line

Cashier’s checks are often the payment of choice when buying a home or car. Understanding how they work and where you can get one can help you decide if it’s the right way to pay.

And when you’re on the receiving end of a cashier’s check, take care to avoid fraud. Accept cashier’s checks only from people you know, if possible, and give the check time to clear after depositing it into your bank account.