What a Cashier’s Check Is and Where to Get One

Use a cashier’s check from a bank or credit union to make a large payment safely

A cashier’s check is a check drawn against the bank’s account rather than yours. It is written in the bank’s name and typically signed by a teller. The bank is responsible for paying the check to the payee. You pay the bank the funds needed to cover the check from your account. You have to go to a bank or credit union—in person or online—to get a cashier’s check.

In several scenarios, 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 or cash payments. Alternatively, you can use a certified check, money order, wire transfer, or social payment app to make a payment. Each form of payment has its pluses and minuses.

Here’s what you need to know about using cashier’s checks, how to get one, and what to use in their place if you need another option.

Key Takeaways

  • A cashier’s check is drawn from a bank’s or credit union’s funds and signed by a cashier or teller, which means that the bank guarantees payment of the check.
  • A cashier’s check provides protections that a personal check does not. That is why it is useful for making a large payment—for a land purchase, for example, or a down payment on a home.
  • You can get a cashier’s check by visiting your bank branch or credit union or going to its website if it offers these checks online.
  • If you don’t want to use a cashier’s check, other options include a money order, certified check, wire transfer, or social payment app.

Why Use a Cashier’s Check to Pay?

A cashier’s check is typically associated with a large payment when the payee—the person receiving the funds—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, it’s not generally used for everyday spending.

A cashier’s check provides a measure of security to everyone involved in the transaction. The payee knows that the check won’t be returned, since 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.

A cashier’s check is written in the bank’s name rather than yours and signed by a teller, which means that the bank guarantees its payment.

How 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. Note that getting a cashier’s check online may take more time than obtaining one in person.

For all three options, you’ll first need to check the issuer’s requirements for providing a cashier’s check. Many banks and credit unions will only issue a cashier’s check to one of their customers. If you can get a cashier’s check without having an account, you’ll need to come with cash in hand to cover the check’s amount.

Once you have identified the bank or credit union branch where you’ll get the cashier’s check—and verified whether you need an account—the rest is fairly simple. You’ll just need to:

  • Get your information together. You’ll need the exact name of the payee—the business or person you are paying—and the exact 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. (Be sure you have adequate funds to cover the check.) 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 than that. You may be able to get a free cashier’s check 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. Follow the menu prompts to add the payee’s name and address, the amount, and any notes you want to include. The check may be routed to a bank/credit union branch where you can pick it up or mailed to the address on your account, which will likely take longer than if you get it in person and deliver it yourself.

Always get a paper or digital receipt for a cashier’s check to verify proof of payment. You may need it if the check is lost or stolen.

Alternatives to a Cashier’s Check

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 a payment to another party.

Money Orders

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

Compared with a cashier’s check, a money order may be less expensive. The U.S. Postal Service, for example, offers money orders for $2.20 or less. They’re also more convenient, as you’re not limited to finding them at banks and credit unions. You can purchase a money order 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 it, including the fee.

Certified Checks

A certified check is like a cashier’s check, but it’s drawn directly against your account. It’s essentially still a personal check, but it’s signed by both you and the bank. This means that 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 that the bank charges.

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

Wire Transfers

With wire transfers, money is sent electronically—directly from your account to someone else’s—with no check required. It can be 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 $14 to $50 to execute a wire transfer.

The other drawback: Wire transfers aren’t always instant. For example, 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 that 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.

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 using 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 can ask the bank to reissue the check. The caveat is that the bank may ask for an indemnity bond first. This bond isn’t easy to obtain and makes you liable if the lost check is found and presented for payment. It’s also not an instant process. Depending on the bank, you may have to wait 30 to 90 days to receive a replacement cashier’s check.

How much does a cashier’s check cost?

A bank will usually issue a cashier’s check for a $10–$15 fee; however, this fee may be waived for customers who meet certain balance minimums or other requirements.

Can I use a cashier’s check online?

Some banks, including Bank of America, PNC, SunTrust, Chase, M&T Bank, and U.S. Bank, allow cashier’s checks below a certain amount to be deposited using their mobile banking app. Other banks require that cashier’s checks be presented physically. Unlike an electronic check, or e-check, you generally cannot spend a cashier’s check online to make purchases.

The Bottom Line

Cashier’s checks are often the payment of choice when buying a home or a 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. Only accept a cashier’s check from someone you know, if possible, and give the check time to clear after depositing it into your bank account before using the funds.

Article Sources
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