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What Is a Cashier's Check?

Kyle Delicata, Preferred Banking Office Manager, First Republic Bank
July 29, 2022

  • Cashier’s checks are bank-issued checks that draw from the bank’s own funds rather than an individual’s bank account.
  • These checks can be safer than other payment methods, including other types of checks, depending on the usage.
  • Cashier’s checks still can be tampered with or counterfeited, so you should know what to look for in terms of watermarks and other security features.

On some occasions, you may be asked to present a cashier’s check as a method of payment, especially for large purchases. A cashier’s check, also known as an official check, is a check that draws from the bank’s own funds, rather than from the client’s account directly. A bank employee signs cashier’s checks, guaranteeing to the recipient that the check amount will be paid in full. This is different from a regular check, which comes out of the account owner’s holdings and may not sufficiently cover the amount of money required. 

A cashier’s check helps provide peace of mind for the person you’re paying. Alternatively, as a recipient, a cashier’s check assures you that another party’s debt can be paid. Both of these attributes come in handy, particularly with substantial purchases. 

How does a cashier’s check work?

A cashier’s check draws from a bank’s funds, instead of what the individual customer has in their bank account. This means the bank fronts the money when a cashier’s check is cashed or deposited. The bank then places a hold on the client’s account to make sure they have enough money to cover the check’s total. 

Uses for cashier’s checks

A cashier’s check might be the ideal payment option in several situations versus other methods, such as a money order. For example, you might opt for a cashier’s check to:

  • Purchase a car
  • Make a tax payment
  • Pay a security deposit for an apartment rental 
  • Cover a large purchase, such as a down payment on a home

Pros and cons of cashier’s checks

A cashier’s check offers its users several benefits, as well as potential drawbacks.

Benefits Potential Drawbacks
  • Ideal for transactions that consist of large amounts of money
  • Secure payment guaranteed by the issuer
  • Funds might be available faster than for a regular check (often by the next day)
  • Can be deposited into a money market account
  • Not immune to fraud, forgery or counterfeiting
  • May come with attached fees
  • May require a physical trip to a bank location
  • Only one of several payment options with added security

Your need for a cashier’s check depends on what you’re using the check for, as well as any preferences held by the person you’re paying. Some transactions may not call for a cashier’s check if both parties are comfortable with a personal check. In other scenarios, a money order or other form of payment may be a better option.

Where and how to get cashier’s checks

You can get a cashier’s check from financial institutions, such as your bank or credit union. Ask the teller or representative for a cashier’s check, and be ready to provide the following details:

  • Payee’s name
  • Check amount
  • Valid identification
  • Sufficient funds to cover the amount of the check

You also may be able to request a cashier’s check via your online banking portal. This depends on the bank, as well as its rules and policies. Be sure to check with your financial services provider for details.

Potential fees

Cashier’s checks may come with an attached check fee, depending on your financial institution and account type. Fees can range from $5 to $15, depending on the issuer. Some banks may waive fees for high-balance checking account holders. These fees vary among banks, however, so be sure to check with your financial institution for more details. 

Lost or stolen cashier’s checks

Cashier’s checks can be lost or stolen. It’s not easy to replace a lost or stolen cashier’s check, but there are a few options available for recourse. Some banks may provide you with replacement checks, but may also require you to get an indemnity bond. An indemnity bond ensures that you will cover the amount of both checks if they’re cashed.

Avoiding cashier’s check fraud

Although cashier’s checks are designed to provide more security than a regular check, be aware of cashier’s check scams. Forgery is one of the most common scams associated with cashier’s checks, making it important to take the following cautionary steps. 

  • Check that the routing number and watermark are accurate.
  • Verify the check with the issuing bank before accepting the check.
  • Only send and receive checks from trusted individuals and businesses.

Alternative types of checks

If you want to make or receive a payment, you can consider other options besides cashier’s checks. Below are a few alternative types of checks to consider.

Check Types Uses and Considerations
Personal Checks
  • Fast to write; do not need to go to the bank to fill out
  • Ideal for smaller purchases or from people whom you know and trust
  • Can take longer to process than cashier's checks
eChecks
  • Allows for fully digital payment versus cashing a paper check
  • Funds are processed through the ACH network, which offers relatively quick processing
Certified Checks
  • A personal check endorsed by a bank (rather than being written by the bank itself)
  • Can come with lower or no fees, depending on your bank
Traveler's Checks
  • Less common in the era of digital banking, but still issued and accepted across the world
  • Ideal for traveling abroad in lieu of converting (and carrying) hard currency
Business Checks
  • Fast to write; no trip to the bank required
  • Designed for noncash business transactions
  • Can take longer to process than a cashier’s check or certified check 

You have several options in terms of picking out the right check for your needs. It’s important to balance your need for security versus cost. You should also consider how quickly you need the recipient to access funds, as this varies among different options. Cashier’s checks have several safety advantages but aren’t foolproof. If you’re unsure of which option to choose, a banking professional can help you make the right decision for your situation.

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