You’re about to make a big purchase — maybe your first house, or a car — and even though you saved enough money for a down payment, the seller requires a cashier’s check. If you’ve never purchased a cashier’s check, you might be wondering why a personal check isn’t OK, and what kind of fees you’ll have to pay.
Here’s a little more information about cashier’s checks, why they’re used and how you can get one when you need it.
What are cashier’s checks?
A cashier’s check is a draft guaranteed by a bank, drawn from the bank’s own funds and signed by a cashier or teller. It’s used in place of cash, personal checks, credit cards or money orders.
The most important difference versus a regular check is the financial institution that issues a cashier’s check covers its face value instead of the purchaser. Sellers ask for this kind of payment because it’s guaranteed, since the funds are drawn against the bank rather than a personal account.
How can you get a cashier’s check?
A teller ensures that the purchaser has the cash to pay for the check or, if the funds being used are in an account at that bank, that there is enough there to pay for it before a cashier’s check will be issued. The full amount of the check will be “frozen” in your account or withdrawn when the check is issued.
Fees and bank policies
Banks charge a fee of up to $10 to cut a cashier’s checks. (First Internet Bank charges $5 for cashier’s checks.) At least a few charge a percentage of the check amount. Information about these fees and related policies can usually be found in the checking rates and fees pages that most institutions publish on their websites.
You cannot get a blank cashier’s check. You must provide identification, supply the exact amount of the check you need and stipulate the name of the payee. Once the teller confirms you have the funds to cover the requested amount, the check will be written for the amount you requested, and the teller or a bank officer will sign it.
Although funds from a cashier’s check deposited into a bank account are usually available the next day, many banks place a hold on amounts over $5,000 until the check has been cleared by the issuing bank. In some cases, this can take days, but that helps protect against cashier’s check fraud. Cashier’s checks contain additional security features that make counterfeiting more difficult, and this also helps prevent scams. Try not to take a cashier’s check from someone you don’t know, and if you do receive one, wait to use the funds until several days after the check has been deposited, or check with your bank to make sure it has cleared.
If a cashier’s check is lost, banks may require the purchaser to get an indemnity bond for the amount of the lost check before issuing a replacement, according to the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a bank regulator. This bond ensures the purchaser is liable for the replacement check.
Other payment options:
- Money orders
- Certified checks
Cashier’s check vs. certified check vs. money order
A cashier’s check is different from a certified check, which is a personal check written by a bank customer and drawn on the customer’s account. With a certified check, the bank certifies the signature is genuine and that the customer had sufficient funds to cover the check when it was issued. A money order is an order for a pre-specified amount of money that must be paid in advance.
Why use a cashier’s check instead of a money order? Money orders are inexpensive, and you can purchase them with cash or a debit card, but there may be limits, such as the U.S. Postal Service’s $1,000 cap on the amount. Also, money orders aren’t considered guaranteed funds, since they aren’t covered by another institution.
The bottom line
Cashier’s checks are one of the safest, most practical and increasingly preferred ways to make large payments on purchases. If you have a big purchase to make and can’t use a debit or credit card, a cashier’s check can be a great way to pay a large amount of money.
Contact a First Internet Bank Relationship Banker at [email protected] or 1-888-873-3424 with any questions about cashier’s checks or our other banking services.
Where Can I Cash a Cashier’s Check?
The most important part of cashing a cashier’s check is finding the right place to do it. Your should make your decision based on potential fees, speed, and convenience. There are many places where you can cash a cashier’s check:
- The bank that wrote the cashier’s check. As long as it’s convenient for you, this should be one of the first stops on your list. This is the bank that’s paying the check right out of their own funds, so they will cash it for you even if you’re not a member.
- A bank where you have an account. If you have an account at a bank, you can take a cashier’s check there, even if that bank didn’t write the check. Your bank can either give you cash for the check or deposit it into your account, typically without charging a fee.
- Another bank that didn’t write the cashier’s check. Many banks will cash cashier’s checks that they did not write for non-members as long as you’re willing to pay a fee. This fee reimburses the bank for acting as a middleman in your transaction.
- A special check-cashing store. Some stores will cash a cashier’s check for you, sometimes at lower fees than a bank would charge. These include check-cashing stores like Moneytree or Money Mart.
- Large retail stores. Sometimes retailers like Walmart will cash checks for you. They may charge a fee for check cashing services or only offer those services to customers who belong to certain store membership programs.
Cashier’s checks are a great way to make large payments. The funds are guaranteed by the bank that wrote the check, so there can be no doubt that the check will clear once it’s cashed at an appropriate financial institution. When cashing a cashier’s check, be sure to compare potential fees at different banks, credit unions, or check-cashing stores.
Image Source: https://depositphotos.com/
Nick Cesare is a writer from Boise, ID. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing and making avocado toast.
This post was updated September 17, 2018. It was originally published August 16, 2018.
Cashier’s Check Basics
A cashier’s check (also known as an official check, teller’s cheque, bank cheque, etc.) is a check that differs from regular checks because it is a more secure form of payment.
With a cashier’s check, funds are guaranteed by the bank that issues the check. For this reason, cashier’s checks provide good reassurance that the check will clear when deposited since the money is already held by the bank and ready to be transferred.
Cashier’s checks are not commonly used for everyday expenses but for major transactions — such as real estate — since the recipient requires guaranteed payment.
It wouldn’t make sense to buy cashier’s checks for small transactions because they will not offset the cost of getting an official check, which can be quite pricey.
Cashier's Check Fee at the Top Banks
|Bank of America||$10|
|Fifth Third Bank||$10.75|
|BMO Harris Bank||$10|
Other Ways to Make Payments
While cashier’s checks are viable for making large payments, remember that you also have alternative payment methods at your disposal — with features that you may prefer over those found with cashier’s checks:
Online payment platforms & services
Some people may find comfort in an electronic trail to follow the movement of their funds. Online payment platforms, such as PayPal and Venmo, allow you to trace your money when you pay someone.
Usually, these payment services don’t charge hefty fees (or any fees at all) when you are making payments from a bank account to another bank account.
A wire transfer is an expensive, but very quick, method of transferring money or making a payment to someone else. Typically, a wire transfer will move the money within 24 hours — usually much faster.
This payment method benefits the recipient significantly because the money arrives quickly. Before you perform a wire transfer for large sum of money, it is important to verify the legitimacy of the transaction.
Like with cashier’s checks, once that money is gone, it is very hard to get back if a dispute comes along.
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Theresa is a research analyst at MyBankTracker.com. She is an expert in bank fees and policies, money psychology and consumer spending.
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How a money order works
A money order is a prepaid document that resembles a check. You simply have to walk into a supplier, request a money order, pay for it upfront, and then you can leave with the paper document to give to the payee. Since it is generated by a third party, the money order will not contain any of your sensitive personal information on the document, but you will have to fill in the payee’s information yourself. The main drawback to a money order is that there are strict limits on the amount of money that can be guaranteed by this method. Most suppliers will only provide money orders as high as $1,000.
Money orders are generally less expensive than cashier’s checks. One popular location to obtain a money order is Wal-Mart. They only charge $0.70 per transaction! One of the more expensive options is the United States Postal Service, which charges as high as a $1.60 per transaction.
You can pay for a money order with cash, a debit card, or even a credit card cash advance (although we don’t recommend that method due to high fees). If you buy a money order at your own financial institution, they can pull the funds directly from your account. Make sure to ask if they have any member rewards programs that waive the cost of the money order, and if your account qualifies.
Where to buy
Money orders are widely available at a variety of businesses including:
- Convenience stores
- Post offices
- Financial institutions
How a cashier’s check works
A cashier’s check is a form of payment that is only provided by financial institutions like banks or credit unions. They often only provide this service to customers or members, and back the funds themselves. This provides an extra layer of security for the payee. A cashier’s check looks similar to a money order, but the financial institution will cut the check and fill in all pertinent information, including the amount and payee line. Cashier’s checks are commonly used for large purchases, like a down payment on a home, because they do not have strict caps on the amount of a transaction.
Cashier’s checks generally cost more than a money order. The average cost is around $10 per cashier’s check. However, since you can cut a cashier’s check for substantially more money than $1,000, it could actually end up being more cost-effective depending on the amount of money you need. Rather than buying multiple money orders and paying the transaction fee each time, you could buy one cashier’s check and only have to pay one transaction fee.
Where to buy
This form of payment is only available at financial institutions, and often only for account holders at those institutions. They will pull the funds directly from your account, or you could choose to pay in cash. Make sure you bring identification to prove you’re an account holder, double-check that you have the funds in your account to pay for the cashier’s check, and know exactly how the payee wants the recipient information filled out.
Which option should you choose?
While money orders are generally more easily accessible and incur less fees, they do have strict limits on the amount of money that can be guaranteed on one money order. While cashier’s checks can be made out for extremely large sums of money and are backed by trusted financial institutions, they incur larger fees and are not as easily accessible.
Because of these reasons, we recommend using a money order if you only need a method of secure payment for $1,000 or less. If you require a much larger sum of money, we recommend buying a cashier’s check from your local financial institution.
- Keep the receipt of your money order or cashier’s check until the payment has gone through. If the document is lost or stolen, the receipt will give you a chance at a refund before the funds are cashed.
- It is next to impossible to get these types of payment online. Always try to go to the store or bank in-person to get a money order or cashier’s check.
- Know the exact amount the recipient is requesting and how the payee line should be filled out before purchasing this type of payment.
- Educate yourself on common scams associated with cashier’s checks and money orders so that you don’t unwittingly become a victim!
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