What Is a Cashier’s Check? How It Works and Where to Get One

Written by Jennifer PachecoUpdated: 9th Nov 2021
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Traditional banks and credit unions both offer the option of obtaining a cashier’s check. Some charge fees to write out this specific type of check, but others do not.

For more information on whether your specific financial institution charges a fee for a cashier’s check, call, or visit your local branch.

A cashier’s check is like that of a personal check, yet it has additional security linked to it.

That’s why bank goers often use a cashier’s check to make larger purchases, like a down payment on a car, a mortgage payment, or a rent payment.

What Is a Cashier’s Check?

A cashier’s check looks very much like a personal check, but instead of having your signature on it, it has the teller or cashier’s signature.

When you go to a bank and request to purchase this type of check, you’re telling the teller the person that the funds are going to and the exact amount of money to put on the check.

The money immediately gets deducted from the account you’re withdrawing the funds from so that there’s no pending checks and you don’t have to wait for the recipient to receive his or her funds.

Payment almost always clears the same day, making it an efficient and safer form of payment – especially when large amounts are involved.

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How Do Cashier’s Checks Work?

A cashier’s check also works like a personal check – but with one distinctive difference.

When you use a cashier’s check, the money isn’t guaranteed by your checking account. It’s guaranteed by the bank or credit union. Why?

Because you’ve already paid the financial institution the money to deposit into the check, that’s what happens when the check automatically clears. Now it’s a pending check in the bank or credit union’s account instead of yours.

When Do I Need a Cashier’s Check?

Most people use a cashier’s check when making large purchases, like buying a car, making a mortgage payment, or paying their landlord rent. These types of purchases usually can’t be made using cash, credit, or debit cards.

It only helps that cashier’s checks have added safety features, making them the best way to submit large payments to recipients.

How and Where Do I Get a Cashier’s Check?

Most traditional banks, military banks, and credit unions offer the option of cashier checks to their customers. Just head on over to your local branch and inquire if there’s a certain time of day or fee associated with them.

For your financial institution to issue you a cashier’s check, you’ll need to have the payee’s name of where the check is going to, the specific amount of money that the check is holding, valid identification, and sufficient funds in your account to cover the amount of money you’re paying your recipient.

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Where to Get a Cashier’s Check Without a Bank Account

If you don’t have a bank account, getting a cashier’s check can pose as difficult. In fact, financial institutions frequently will not grant you access to a cashier’s check without a bank account.

There are, however, two instances where a bank or credit union will waive this denial. If you’re closing an account because the account holder is deceased and you’re the account’s beneficiary, you may be granted a cashier’s check.

If you have a closed account with an overdrawn balance and the financial institution needs you to pay back what you owe, you may be granted a cashier’s check.

Cashier’s Check vs. Certified Check vs. Money Order

Some people prefer not to use a cashier’s check. Perhaps because of the fee associated with it. Perhaps because they don’t want the funds to immediately be deducted from their account.

Whatever the case may be, there are two other forms of payment that can be used as an alternative, and they’re a certified check or money order.

Certified checks are a type of personal check that withdraws funds from your account vs. the bank or credit union’s account.

There is an added element of security in certified checks, though, considering the teller at the financial institution certifies the check funds are available in the account when it was written.

The teller will also verify that the signature is validated and that the check’s amount is solely put aside for this specific transaction.

Money orders are just as secure as a certified check. A money order is like a cashier’s check in that both forms of payment are prepaid, and both forms are guaranteed by the issuer, not the person requesting it.

Instead of going to a bank or credit union, you would lean on Western Union, the United States Post Office, or retailers like Wal-Mart to obtain a money order. These easily accessible payment transactions do have a $1000 limit, though.

What Are the Advantages of Cashier’s Checks?

Cashier’s checks come in handy for secure and immediate payments. But what else are they good for?

Payment is Guaranteed

The funds are withdrawn from your account immediately, and they’re paid to the bank. This means it’s the bank’s responsibility to pay the person you are issuing the check to.

You don’t have to worry about getting overdrafts or having insufficient funds. The money is guaranteed by the bank every time.

Greater Availability of Funds

Some banks take longer than others to pass deposits through your account, especially if they’re large amounts.

But with a cashier’s check, it’s guaranteed that the check recipient will wait a much shorter amount of time to obtain the funds.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Cashier’s Check?

Every pro list is followed by a con list – and a cashier’s check is not without cons.

Must-Visit Your Local Bank Branch

Personal checks are easy and convenient; you can write them in the comfort of your home, you can send them out in seconds, and you always have access to them if need be.

Cashier’s checks cannot be immediately available. You have to head into your local branch (or request one online, if that’s something your financial institution allows).

This can make things difficult, especially if you need the cashier’s check outside of banking hours.

Come with Costly Fees

Another unfortunate downer of obtaining a cashier’s check is that they are often associated with fees.

That’s not to say that all financial institutions slap a fee on their cashier’s checks, but you may want to keep an eye out for them – especially if they’re high. Some banks can charge up to $15 for one.

Susceptible to Counterfeit

Cashier’s checks are more safe and secure than almost any other type of payment, but that doesn’t mean they’re foolproof.

Fraud can still happen. Especially if the scammers know exactly how to make look-alike cashier’s checks with similar security markings on them.

Is a Cashier’s Check Safe?

Yes, cashier’s checks can absolutely be safe – especially when compared to personal checks or money orders. But cashier check scams do still exist. That’s why most financial institutions suggest that if you do accept a cashier’s check, it’s from a reliable source.

What Is the Maximum Amount for a Cashier’s Check?

Policies may differ from one financial institution to the next, but, there’s no limit to the amount you can put on a cashier’s check. If you have the funds in your account to pay the bank, you should be good.

What Is the Difference Between a Cashier’s Check and a Regular Check?

The main difference between a cashier’s check and a regular check is that the recipient gets the funds directly from the bank with a cashier’s check and directly from your personal banking account with a regular check.

Cashier’s checks clear the same day, but regular checks will only clear once cashed – and sometimes it takes a few days after that for it to entirely clear.

How to Avoid Cashiers’ Check Scams

It’s quite difficult to avoid being scammed by a cashier’s check. This is why most financial institutions recommend that you only accept a cashier’s check from someone you know.

You should also never accept a cashier’s check as an online payment. If the amount you’re submitting or accepting is very large, you may want to consider an alternate method.

Bottom Line: What Is a Cashier’s Check?

All in all, a cashier’s check is perfect for large payment scenarios where you don’t want to withdraw cash, pull out your credit card, or use a personal check.

It should be easy to know and understand how to obtain a cashier’s check with all the information provided above.

But, if you have any further questions, feel free to visit your local bank or credit union branch. You can even call in if you prefer to avoid making an additional trip.

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Jennifer Pacheco

Jennifer Pacheco attended the University of Dartmouth, Massachusetts where she earned her degree in English Writing & Editorial Work. She is a seasoned personal finance writer with over 5 years of professional work under her belt, and supplies easy-to-read information that’s educational, engaging, and conversational to help you make the most of your money.