Business Banking

What is a cashier’s check?

What is a cashier’s check and how can you get one? We answer these and many other questions about cashier’s checks.

Jump to:
section

Table of Contents

When you write a personal check, the amount sent to the payee is usually drawn from your checking account. This is a good form of payment because checks are generally convenient, easy to use, safer than cash, and you don’t have to carry large sums of money with you. Plus, you can write a check for pretty much any amount1, as long as 1) you have sufficient funds in your bank account, and 2) the payee accepts checks as a payment method.

That said, a cashier’s check may be a more preferable form of payment, particularly for large purchases that require large amounts of money. It offers a safe way to pay for things like real estate, cars, and even down payments for equipment. So, what is a cashier’s check and how can you get one? Read on for these answers and more.

Key takeaways

  • A cashier’s check is a type of check that’s drawn against a bank’s own funds.
  • Because of its safety features, a cashier’s check is usually ideal for making large payments.
  • Although a cashier’s check is similar to a money order in that both require you to provide the money upfront, a money order is generally ideal for small payments while a cashier’s check is more suitable for large purchases.
  • Cashier’s checks are issued by banks and credit unions.

What is a cashier’s check?

A cashier’s check is a check that is drawn against the account of a financial institution. Since cashier’s checks are usually offered by banks and credit unions, it would be accurate to define them as official checks drawn against bank or credit union accounts. This is different from personal checks, which are usually drawn against personal bank accounts.

Unlike a personal check, a cashier’s check is paid from the bank or credit union’s own funds. Thus, the financial institution itself, not the payer, guarantees the payment of a cashier’s check. It is usually signed by the teller or cashier of the issuing bank.

How does a cashier’s check work?

When you walk into a bank to request a cashier’s check, the bank will check your account to ensure that you have enough money to cover the amount of the check. The money is then transferred from your account to the bank’s account.

Once the transfer is complete, the bank prints the cashier’s check, complete with the payee’s details and the amount payable. However, instead of your bank account and routing number, the check will have the bank’s account number printed at the bottom.

When the cashier’s check gets to the payee, they can deposit it at their financial institution. The funds will be drawn from the issuing bank to the payee’s account. This typically takes one business day, but the check may clear immediately. That said, financial institutions often place a hold when the amount deposited by a cashier’s check exceeds $5,5255.

The bottom line is, the issuing bank actually makes the payment on behalf of its customer, who has to give the bank the full amount equivalent to the face value of the cashier’s check. Say, for example, that you need to make a $150,000 payment using a cashier’s check. You would need to supply the full amount (either as a withdrawal or in cash) to the bank. The bank then deposits that amount in its account, and issues a cashier’s check to the payee. No one else can cash the check apart from the designated payee2.

Is a cashier's check a safe way to send money?

Yes, a cashier’s check is very safe because it’s issued by the bank/credit union and paid out of the bank/credit union’s own funds, not the payer’s checking account. That’s part of the reason why cashier’s checks often clear faster than personal checks. The payee may get funds within one business day3. Personal checks often take longer – two to seven days, depending on the amount of the check and the payer’s financial circumstances.

As already mentioned, cashier’s checks can only be cashed by the designated payee, which reduces the possibility of check scams. Besides, they have additional built-in security features like watermarks to lower and potentially eliminate cases of fraud. This makes cashier’s checks quite safe. That’s why they may be the preferred way for making large payments, more so if you are concerned about the security of the payment.

Generally, cashier’s checks are suitable when:

  • You need to make a large purchase. For example, you may be trying to buy a car or putting down a security deposit for a house or other real estate asset. A cashier’s check may be even more necessary if other safe payment methods like credit card, debit card or personal check are unavailable for one reason or another. Any amount over $1,000 is enough to warrant the use of a cashier’s check.
  • The payee requests a cashier’s check. Some sellers and vendors will specifically ask that you use a cashier’s check because it is safe, clears fast and the bank guarantees it. There’s no risk of bouncing and sending an account to overdraft as is the case with personal checks.
  • You want to minimize the risk of fraud. Either you or the payee may prefer a cashier’s check to avoid the risk of being swindled. Although there are cases of fraudulent cashier’s checks being issued4, they are generally rare. That’s because cashier’s checks have security features like watermarks and in some cases, it will be signed by at least two bank employees.

Tip: Cashier’s check fraud almost always involves someone giving you a fake cashier’s check that looks genuine. Oftentimes they’ll ask you to wire them money and send goods in return. Before completing any transaction or exchange, always make sure that the cashier’s check is genuine. You can verify its legitimacy by calling or visiting the issuing bank to confirm whether or not the check is genuine. Also, avoid taking cashier’s checks from people you don’t know. If you do take one, wait until it clears before completing the transaction.

What happens if a cashier's check gets lost?

Although you cannot cancel a cashier’s check, there’s absolutely no reason to panic if you lose one before you send it. You generally can get a replacement check from the issuer bank, but you may need to obtain an indemnity bond first.

An indemnity bond is a type of insurance policy obtained from insurance companies. According to the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an indemnity bond basically makes you liable for any losses that the bank may incur if a lost check is found and somehow cashed. So, by asking for it, a bank essentially prevents itself from being liable for two checks.

Once you have this bond, you may get a replacement cashier’s check in 30 to 90 days2. But the tricky part is getting the indemnity bond to start with. They are usually hard to obtain6.

Cashier’s check vs. money order

A cashier’s check is similar to a money order in several ways. Both require you to give cash to the issuer, after which you get a print-out to fill. They generally don’t have the option to stop payment because funds leave your account when the cashier’s check or money order is issued, not when the payee cashes it7. In both cases, the payee gets funds by depositing the check or money order. And since they both don’t contain your checking account number, they make excellent payment methods for people who want to keep their banking and personal finance information private.

Despite their similarities, these two instruments of payment do have some notable differences. Here’s a money order vs. cashier check comparison:

  • Source of funds. While a cashier’s check is drawn from the financial institution’s own funds, a money order is written against a prepaid payment. Think of a money order as a prepaid card that can be cashed by someone else.
  • Maximum amount. Money orders often have a set limit that you can send. The U.S. Postal Service, for example, caps the amount at $1,000. Cashier’s checks typically have no maximum limit. This is what makes them great for large payments.
  • Guarantee. While cashier’s checks are backed by a financial institution, money orders aren’t. A money order is simply paid for in advance. That in itself is a type of guarantee, but it’s not backed by the issuer. Nonetheless, money orders typically don’t bounce.
  • Access. You generally need to have a bank account to get a cashier’s check. The same is not true for money orders. You can easily get one at a financial institution, grocery store, post office, and retail outlets like Walmart even if you don’t have a bank account.
  • Check fees. Cashier’s checks are generally more expensive than money orders, especially for smaller amounts. Walmart charges 88 cents for a money order that you can use to send up to $1,000. Money orders from the U.S. Postal Service cost between $1.25 and $1.76 depending on the amount, while banks charge around $5. On the other hand, cashier’s checks typically cost $10 or more8. But keep in mind that your bank may offer free cashier’s checks if you hold a certain type of account.
  • Availability of funds. After making a deposit, you will typically get the first $5,525 of a cashier’s check within one business day. For money orders, oftentimes only $200 is available within one business day. The rest of the amount is subjected to a longer holding period9.

At the end of the day, the money order vs. cashier check debate boils down to the amount of money you would like to send and whether or not you have a bank account. A money order is a good option for transactions of $1,000 or less. It also makes sense to opt for a money order if you do not have a checking account. If you are looking to make large purchases that exceed $1,000, it may be better to use a cashier’s check, especially if you have a bank account.

How do you get a cashier’s check?

Cashier’s checks are only offered by banks and credit unions. These institutions typically don’t offer cashier’s checks to non-customers10. Therefore, if you don’t have an account, you may need to open one. If this is not an option, you can try calling some banks near you to find out if they issue cashier’s checks without a bank account. If they don’t, then you might need to consider a money order as your next best alternative.

If you have a checking or savings account11, you can get a cashier’s check by visiting your financial institution. Online banks as well as some traditional banks and credit unions give their customers the option to order a cashier’s check online. For example, Wells Fargo allows its customers to obtain cashier’s checks online or in a branch. If you order yours online, you may need to pay for delivery.

Nonetheless, below are the steps for getting a cashier’s check:

1. Have enough money on hand. Since you’re required to pay the full amount of the check beforehand, you will need to have this money either in cash or in your bank account. It may be a checking or savings account. Either way, the money should be transferable to the bank’s account.

2. Gather the required information. The bank may request that you avail some form of personal identification, such as a driver’s license. Therefore, have that ready. And since banks don’t usually issue blank cashier’s checks, you will also need to provide the name of the payee.

3. Order the cashier’s check. You can either visit the bank in person and request for a cashier’s check or order it online. However, keep in mind that not all banks allow customers to order cashier’s checks online. But some do. Others will give you the option to order via phone. Whatever the case, ordering a cashier’s check online or by call will take longer than if you visit a bank branch yourself. In-person service is typically immediate; a cashier or customer care attendant will take your details and provide a cashier’s check instantly.

4.Pay the check amount. You can do this in cash or through a withdrawal from your checking or savings account. If you choose the latter option, the exact amount of the check will either be frozen or drawn from your account. Make sure you have sufficient funds in the account. The teller will print the check and sign it.

5. Get your receipt. Make sure to ask for a receipt. Besides serving as proof of the payment, you may use it to track the transaction should you need to.

Frequently asked questions:

Is a cashier’s check the same as cash?

No, it is not. The word “cash” is often used when referring to money in its physical form – i.e., notes and coins. A cashier’s check, on the other hand, is a printed paper that stands in for money. You may use a cashier’s check when you don’t want to carry cash.

What is the difference between a cashier’s check and a personal check?

Although a cashier’s check is similar to a personal check in the sense that both are pieces of paper that stand in for money, the primary difference between the two is that while a personal check is written against your own funds, a cashier’s check is written against the funds of the issuing bank or credit union. For this reason, you can write a personal check for yourself but you can’t write your own cashier’s check. It has to be written by a cashier or teller at the bank. Perhaps a certified check is the closest type of personal check to a cashier’s check.

How do you deposit a cashier’s check?

To deposit a cashier’s check, go with it to your bank and present it to a teller along with a check deposit slip. The teller may ask you to write “For Deposit Only” and put your signature in the endorsement area at the back of the check. Once this is done, you’re good to go. Ask for your receipt and wait for the check to clear.

Some banks allow their customers to deposit cashier’s checks online. To do this, download your bank’s mobile app and sign in with your account details. Write your account number and signature at the back of the cashier’s check, then take photos of its front and back, and upload them for deposit. Keep in mind that banks may have specific rules for depositing cashier’s checks electronically. For example, TD Bank requires customers to have an active account for at least 90 days before they can deposit a cashier’s check online12.

Finally, some banks also allow customers to deposit cashier’s checks at the ATM. To do this, insert your ATM card for the machine to automatically detect your account number. Select the deposit option and insert the check in the check deposit slot. The ATM will complete the transaction for you.

What does a cashier’s check look like?

A cashier’s check looks like any other check. It typically has the words “Cashier’s Check” printed at the very top. You should be able to see a line for listing the payee’s name and another for the amount payable. Just below that, there should be bank details, including the bank name, account number, and routing number. For security reasons, cashier’s checks also have noticeable watermarks.

What is the maximum amount for a cashier’s check?

Although the terms may vary from bank to bank, cashier’s checks typically don’t have a maximum amount. You can use them for a payment of any size.

References

  1. 02 Jul. 2022, Santander Bank.
  2. 01 Jul. 2022, Bankrate.
  3. 13 Nov. 2020, Nerdwallet.
  4. 02 Jul. 2022, Washington State Department of Financial Institutions.
  5. Apr. 2021, HelpWithMyBank.gov.
  6. Apr. 2021, HelpWithMyBank.gov.
  7. 07 Mar. 2022, ValuePenguin.
  8. 08 Jan. 2021, Nerdwallet.
  9. 14 Feb. 2022, The Balance.
  10. 19 Nov. 2021, Nerdwallet.
  11. 02 Jul. 2022, The Huntington National Bank.
  12. 02 Jul. 2022, Sapling.
Free report and guide
How COVID-19 Impacted Incomes of the Self-Employed Workforce
How did the pandemic impact the income of  gig workers and entrepreneurs? Download to learn more.
Get The Report

Frequently asked questions

No items found.

References