When it comes time to make a large purchase, your options may be limited. Perhaps the seller doesn’t accept personal checks, and cash isn’t a practical option. Depending on the situation, you may be required to use a cashier’s check.
Whether it’s mandatory or it just sounds like a good idea, it’s essential to learn what exactly a cashier’s check is and when you might need to use one. We’ll also show you how to weigh all of your alternative payment options so you can pick the best one for you and your payee.
What is a cashier’s check?
Rather than paying for something with cash, a credit card, or even a personal check, you can use a cashier’s check as a safe way to pay. It’s a draft using your own funds, but instead of being guaranteed by your own account, it’s guaranteed by the bank or credit union that issued the check. So how does a cashier’s check work?
What generally happens is that the bank or credit union deducts the money from your bank account when you request the cashier’s check. Then, the bank issues you a check signed by the bank cashier or teller.
You can then use the cashier’s check as a secure form of payment because the recipient knows that the funds have already been earmarked for them. Unlike a personal check, there is little to no risk of the check bouncing.
This added layer of assurance makes it an attractive option for anyone who requires a large sum at once and doesn’t want to risk dealing with a bounced check.
Why use a cashier’s check?
Cashier’s checks are most commonly used for larger payments. They are primarily used in real estate and brokerage transactions because the dollar amounts for these purchases are so high. A down payment on a house, for example, can be tens of thousands of dollars or even more. They’re also sometimes used as a security deposit on an apartment.
Receiving a personal check carries a much higher risk for the lender in this situation because there is no guarantee the funds are actually in your account. However, with a cashier’s check, the lender knows that the bank has already debited the funds from your account. The bank will release the funds when the check is cashed.
Using them can also be helpful in time-sensitive situations. Funds typically clear the next day, so you don’t have to wait for staggered amounts to be released over several days.
If you’re sending a large amount and the recipient needs to access that cash as soon as possible, they will experience a much shorter wait time with a cashier’s check.
It typically takes just a single business day. Even if you need to send money to a family member, a cashier’s check can be helpful to quickly give them access to the funds they need.
Where can you get a cashier’s check?
Banks and credit unions are the only places that offer them. Some financial institutions allow you to order a cashier’s check online.
You typically must already have a checking or savings account with the financial institution. However, you may be able to find a place that doesn’t require this step. Just expect to take some extra time and effort to find such a bank or credit union. But if you need to get a cashier’s check quickly and don’t have a bank account, now might be the time to open one up.
For credit union members, you can often get one from a credit union branch near you (not just your own) as long as yours participates in shared branching. This convenience provides you with more options when you need to purchase one.
How much does a cashier’s check cost?
Each cashier’s check typically costs around $8 and $10, though the exact amount varies depending on your bank or credit union. Many financial institutions offer free cashier’s checks to their premium checking account-holders.
When you go in, make sure you bring a photo ID with you. You’ll also need the funds to cover the amount of the check. It can be in the form of cash or deposits already in your bank account.
In addition to the check amount, you’ll need to inform the teller of who they should make the cashier’s check out to. You’ll also need to let them know of any notes to go in the memo line, such as an account number or other pertinent information.
The teller will fill out all of the information on the check in advance, so you only have to deliver it to the recipient once it’s ready. So it’s crucial to convey each detail accurately while you’re at the bank because there’s no way to change it once you’ve left with the cashier’s check in hand.
Double-check that each piece of information is correct before leaving the bank to avoid any unnecessary hassle or confusion when the recipient deposits the check.
How secure is a cashier’s check?
Because cashier’s checks are a more secure payment method than most others, funds are typically available in the recipient’s checking account the next day. However, some banks may only release the first $5,000 until the check officially clears.
That gives everyone a little bit of additional security in case the check is counterfeit. If you’re about to receive a cashier’s check, it’s good to know what a real one looks like so you can identify any potential fraud.
Ask to see an example at your local bank branch or do some research online. You’ll notice that each cashier’s check contains some security features to help prevent counterfeit checks from being created. In addition to the issuing bank’s name, the check should also include watermarks, security thread, color-shifting ink, and bond paper.
Another way to stay secure when sending or receiving cashier’s checks is to watch out for common scams. These typically involve the con artist sending out fake cashier’s checks. For example, a typical scenario is receiving a letter stating that you’ve won the lottery or received an inheritance.
The company claims there is a third-party processing fee that they cover by sending you a money order. You’re then supposed to wire money from your personal bank account to the third party, which is usually located in a foreign country.
In the meantime, the cashier’s check is discovered as a fake, and you’re out the cash. This scam has many variations, including claims that you’ve been chosen as a mystery shopper. So, it’s essential to remain vigilant and view any unsolicited offers with a wary eye. As a rule of thumb, never accept a cashier’s check from someone you don’t know, particularly if the request is from abroad.
What is the difference between a cashier’s check and a money order?
The two are similar products, but there are some key differences between them. The biggest is that an actual bank issues a cashier’s check, while a money order is purchased at retailers, post offices, and money transfer stores.
While these stores have security measures in place and take your money to pay for the money order, they don’t specifically guarantee the funds as a bank does with a cashier’s check. Plus, money orders typically come with a maximum amount.
Money Orders Are Cheaper and Easier to Get
For example, the post office only allows money orders up to $1,000. If you need a guaranteed check for a larger amount, you’re better off with a cashier’s check.
Still, a money order can be easier to get because you don’t need a bank account to buy one. You can simply walk into any location that sells them and pay with cash or your debit card.
Money orders are also typically cheaper, usually costing less than $2. That’s compared to the $10 or so you’ll pay for a cashier’s check. Which one is right for you depends on your specific needs, so it’s good to know the differences.
Cashier’s checks can also be confused with certified checks, but they aren’t the same thing. A certified check is also issued by a bank and verifies that both your signature is legitimate. It also verifies that (at the time of issuing) you had enough money in your checking account to cover the check.
However, a certified check is still backed by your own checking account, not by the bank. So the recipient still incurs the risk that the check might bounce if you take money out of your account before it’s actually cashed.
Using cashier’s checks for major purchases can be convenient and reassuring to all parties involved in the transaction. While the fee might be high compared to other methods of payment, it’s unavoidable for the level of security both you and the check recipient receive when dealing with a cashier’s check.