How Do Certified Checks Work?

How Do Certified Checks Work?
••• check book image by Rob Hill from

In some business and personal financial transactions, a regular check will not suffice. Depending on the circumstances, the recipient of the check, also known as the payee, wants additional verification that the check is valid and the account holder has the deposited funds to cover the amount. The payee requests a certified check in these situations.


A certified check is a bank instrument that is issued on behalf of an account holder. Unlike a regular check that is presented to the issuing bank for verification by the payee's bank after a transaction, the party who writes the check receives certification that the check is valid before presenting it to the payee. This ensures that the account holder has the funds to cover the check before the payee attempts to cash it. The account holder's bank typically charges her a fee for certifying the check.


A certified check may be requested by the payee when a transaction involves a large amount of money, such as the purchase of a home or vehicle, or when he is dubious about the account holder's ability to cover the check. It can also be used when the payee possesses little knowledge of the account holder's business reputation or stability. A feature of a certified check that can benefit the payee is that the account holder cannot place a stop payment on the check, because her bank is liable for the check.


To obtain a certified check, the account holder typically must visit the bank in person. A bank employee places the bank's certification stamp on the check along with the date. A bank official or manager sometimes signs the check for additional verification. Some banks also emboss the dollar amount on the check to guard against alteration. The bank moves funds from the account holder's regular account into a special certified account to ensure the funds are available to the payee.

Availability of Funds

Unlike regular checks, which take days to clear, a certified check's funds are usually available to the payee on the next business day after deposit, provided the deposit is made in person inside the bank. However, some banks have rules regarding how much can be withdrawn initially. Scams involving certified check fraud are not uncommon, so some banks implement these restrictions as a means of extra protection.