Often used to pay for large transactions that require certainty the funds are available, a cashier's check differs from a personal check in that the bank – rather than you – will guarantee the amount written on the check. If you need this type of check, you can only get it through a bank or credit union, unlike a money order which you can get at places like convenience stores and post office locations. Depending on your banking situation and preferences, you may request the check in person, online or by phone. Read on to find out more about how a cashier's check works, what pros and cons it offers and what you need to know about getting one.
Getting a Cashier's Check Overview
When you request a cashier's check from a financial institution, you provide the requested check amount using cash or money from your bank account. In return, the bank takes your cash or the funds from your account immediately and puts it in their own account. The bank or credit union then writes a cashier's check for the amount requested and uses their own bank account as the payment source. Thus, this kind of check offers high assurance to the payee that it will be valid as the bank personally has guaranteed the amount requested.
Once you hand the cashier's check to the payee, they can go cash or deposit it at banks and credit unions as well as cash it at check-cashing stores and grocery stores that offer check-cashing services. When the payee cashes or deposits your cashier's check, the money comes directly from the bank's funds. So, they don't have to worry that your bank account won't have enough cash to cover the amount.
Exploring Common Cashier's Check Uses
You can use a cashier's check for any kind of transaction where you need to guarantee that the right amount of funds is available, but there are certain transactions where you or the payee may prefer this payment method.
For example, if you're buying a house, your realtor may have you get a cashier's check for the down payment amount or other fees like earnest money. You might also use this option to pay for the down payment or full cost of a car, truck or another vehicle. Landlords may request a cashier's check for a security deposit, while you may send a cashier's check to a creditor to pay off your card debt or loan.
Generally, if you're spending $1,000 or more, then a cashier's check can fit the bill. On the other hand, a money order could suffice for smaller transactions that you'd otherwise pay for in cash but where you need some security. Along with that, you can consider preferences for yourself and the payee. For example, if the payee wants high security and quick access to the funds, then a cashier's check can work, but you can consider your own preferences for things like security, cashier's check fees and convenience as well in the payment decision.
Preparing to Get the Check
Once you've decided that a cashier's check fits the situation, you need to find a financial institution where you can get the check as well as understand the fees and supporting documentation needed. If you already have a bank or credit union account, you can simply confirm the options offered for getting the check and the fee you'll pay. Otherwise, you can begin researching local branches to find a place that will provide you with a cashier's check as a non-member for a nominal fee.
When researching cashier's check fees, you'll find that some banks charge no fee or waive it if you meet certain conditions. For example, NerdWallet reports that Ally Bank, Discover Bank and State Farm Bank offer free cashier's checks to members, while PNC Bank and Chase Bank waive their $8 fee for certain checking account customers and U.S. Bank charges military customers nothing. Otherwise, you can expect to pay up to $10 for a cashier's check in person, although you may pay as much as $20 if you need overnight shipping for an online or phone request.
If you plan to visit a financial institution in person, you'll need to make sure to bring at least one form of ID like a passport or driver's license. In any case, be sure that you have the correct information for the payee and the amount of the check needed.
Getting Cashier's Checks in Person
If you're looking for the quickest way to get a cashier's check, then you should go in person to a local bank branch or credit union where you can conduct the transaction with a teller and get your check right away. This option also offers flexibility versus getting cashier's checks online or by phone in that you can pay with cash if you'd rather not use bank account funds, and you can find banks that will allow you to get a cashier's check even if you don't have an account there.
When you visit the financial institution, go see a teller and explain that you need to request a cashier's check. You'll need to show your driver's license and state whether you have an account at the bank. Account holders can ask to have the cashier's check made using funds from an existing account at that location or pay in cash, while non-members will only get to use cash. You'll need to provide the check amount and payee name as well as pay any fee the institution charges for certified checks.
As long as you've provided the required funds, the bank should use the information to prepare your cashier's check and hand it to you so you can give it to the payee. Often, you'll receive some type of receipt that can come in handy if you lose your cashier's check and need to try to recover the funds.
Getting Cashier's Checks Online
If you'd rather not make a trip to your financial institution, or your bank only exists online, then you can see if you have the option to order a cashier's check online. This will require that you've already set up an online account through your bank's website. Depending on the bank, you may be able to find an option to order the check through your bank's services menu through the mobile app, or you may have to use the website instead. For example, Capital One only lets you do this through their website.
Once logged in, your bank or credit union may have you enter some kind of verification code or answer a security question to proceed with the cashier's check request. At a minimum, you'll be asked which bank account you want to use, how much the check should be and who the payee is. You may have another space where you can write a short memo to the payee; this is a good place to put the purpose of the check, such as for a down payment, car purchase or something else.
Your financial institution should confirm where you want the check to be sent and how much in fees you'll pay for the service. You can have the cashier's check mailed to yourself if you plan to give it to the payee in person. On the other hand, you could enter the address of the payee as long as you know them personally and are certain the transaction is legitimate. Your bank may have a default option to send the check overnight using a trackable mail method for convenience, or you may pay an additional fee to save yourself several business days of waiting.
Getting Cashier's Checks by Phone
Depending on the bank, you might not have any local branches, and the bank may not offer cashier's checks online either. This most often happens when you deal with an online-only bank such as Ally. In such cases, you may be able to call the bank's customer service number to order a cashier's check over the phone as long as you have an active account. As with requesting cashier's checks online, this option will come with a delay since you have to wait for the bank to print and mail the cashier's check.
When calling to request the check, you'll usually enter your account number, Social Security number or telephone banking PIN to identify yourself. When you get a menu of options, select the option to speak to a representative. You may answer additional verification questions before the employee takes the information needed for the cashier's check.
You'll need to provide the name of the payee along with the amount of the check, the destination where it should be mailed and the specific savings or checking account you want to use. The representative will confirm the information and make sure you have enough account funds. When done, they'll let you know how long you can expect to wait to get the cashier's check in the mail. As with the online order method, you may have an option to pay more for overnight shipping.
Knowing Some Precautions About Scams
While cashier's checks may be preferred for large transactions due to their security and trustworthiness in terms of getting the funds, they've unfortunately also gained notoriety as a payment method used for scams and criminal activities. Most often, these incidents involve someone sending the victim a fake cashier's check, asking them to cash it and requesting something in return, like a wire transfer or retail gift cards. However, a scammer might also ask you to send a cashier's check for a purchase or service.
For example, you might receive a fake cashier's check if you sell items through Craigslist, get contacted about a suspicious work-from-home job or get notified you've won the lottery in some other country. If you rent out your home, a scammer may give you an invalid cashier's check that was supposed to be put toward the deposit and the first month of rent. On the other hand, a fraudulent seller online may request a cashier's check and never provide the product, or you may be asked to send the check to a stranger with the prospect of getting a job or gift in return.
To stay safe, don't try to cash a mysterious cashier's check you receive, and never send anybody you don't know or trust a cashier's check. If you have doubts about a cashier's check you receive, research the information on it such as the bank name and payee and check whether any fraud alerts exist online. If you're using a cashier's check for a legitimate transaction, be sure to get a receipt and consider asking the bank if you have questions about the safety of your transaction.
Learn More: How to Report a Fraud on My Banking Account
- Capital One: How Do I Order a Cashier’s Check?
- Ally: Help Center
- SmartAsset: What Is a Cashier’s Check, and Where Can You Get One?
- Investopedia: Best Ways to Get a Cashier’s Check
- Capital One: What's a Cashier's Check and How Do You Use It?
- Intuit: Everything You Need To Know About Cashier’s Checks
- Bankrate: What’s the Difference Between a Cashier’s Check and a Money Order?
- NerdWallet: Cashier’s Check: When You Need One, How to Get It
- Washington State Department of Financial Institutions: Cashier’s Check Scams
- WalletHub: Cashier’s Check Fraud & Scams: How to Spot a Fake
- Experian: The Difference Between a Money Order and a Cashier’s Check
- Code of Federal Regulation. "12 CFR 229.2(i)." Accessed April 10, 2020.
- U.S. Postal Service. "Sending Money Orders." Accessed April 10, 2020.
- Code of Federal Regulation. "12 CFR 229.2(j)." Accessed April 10, 2020.
- Code of Federal Regulation. "12 CFR 229.2(ll)." Accessed April 10, 2020.
- U.S. Department of the Treasury. "Answers about Cashier's Checks." Accessed April 10, 2020.
Ashley Donohoe has written about business and technology topics since 2010. Having a Master of Business Administration degree, bookkeeping certification and experience running a small business and doing tax returns, she is knowledgeable about the tax issues individuals and businesses face. Other places featuring her business writing include Zacks, JobHero, LoveToKnow, Bizfluent, Chron and Study.com.