What Is a Cashier’s Check?
A cashier’s check is a check written by a financial institution, usually a bank, on its own funds. A representative of the financial institution, usually a bank teller, then signs it and makes it payable to a third party. A customer who purchases a cashier’s check pays for the full face value of the check and generally also pays a small premium for the service. The funds of the issuer secure these checks, which include the name of a payee (the entity to which the check is payable) and the name of the remitter (the entity paying for the check).
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.
Understanding Cashier’s Checks
An individual can use a cashier’s check instead of a personal check to guarantee that funds are available for payment. A cashier’s check is secured because the individual must first deposit the amount of the check into the issuing institution’s own account. The person or entity to whom the check is made out is guaranteed to receive the money when cashing the check.
A cashier’s check is typically associated with a large payment, for which extra protection is warranted. 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 a number of advantages. 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 reassurance that the check won’t be counterfeited. 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. Finally, 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.
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. If it is, 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.
- A cashier’s check cannot bounce.
- Due to watermarks and required bank signatures, a cashier’s check is hard to counterfeit.
- With a cashier’s check, the funds are usually available to the payee by the next business day.
Cashier’s Check vs. Other Forms of Payment
If a payee won’t accept a cashier’s check, there are other options for making large payments that offer varying levels of safety.
The bank does not guarantee traditional checks. If there are not sufficient funds in the remitter’s account to cover the draft, the bank can return the check. As a result, the payee receives no funds from the bad check. Cashier’s checks remove this element of risk.
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 cash to cover the money order and the fee.
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. The bank guarantees a certified check and may put a hold on some of the funds in the account holder’s account, but it doesn’t move the funds from that account to its own reserves. However, if there are insufficient funds in your account to cover the certified check, 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 personal check.
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.
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.
Examples of Cashier’s Check Scams
Although cashier’s checks have very low risk, thieves have developed a number of scams centered on them. In one, a buyer contacts someone who is selling something and offers to buy it with a phony cashier’s check written for a higher amount than the sale price. He asks the seller to wire the difference to another party. The buyer claims he needs to make two transactions but only has one cashier’s check, or he makes up another excuse. After the seller wires the money, he realizes that the cashier’s check is fraudulent when his bank notifies him of this fact days or weeks later.
In another popular scam, the victim receives a letter stating he has been selected to work as a mystery shopper. The letter contains a cashier’s check, and it instructs the victim to use part of the check to buy merchandise during the mystery shopping excursions, wire part of the check to a third party, and keep the remainder as pay. To be successful, the scam relies on the victim wiring the funds before discovering the cashier’s check is a fake.