What is a Cashier’s Check and How Do I Get One?

Also called an official check, a cashier’s check is a great way to pay someone a large amount of money without putting yourself or them at risk. But just what is a cashier’s check and what do you need to know about it? Keep reading to find out.

What is a Cashier’s Check?

A cashier’s check is a check that is issued by either a bank or credit union. It is not signed by you, but by the teller. Instead of the funds being withdrawn from your account, they are withdrawn from the bank’s account (although your account is still debited the full amount). 

A cashier’s check is an absolute form of payment. The payee doesn’t have to worry about protecting a large stack of cash, nor does he or she have to worry about the check bouncing. The check is guaranteed and is only valuable to the payee. If it were stolen, the thief would be unable to do anything with it.

All in all, it’s a safer, more secure form of payment for all parties involved. 

When is a Cashier’s Check Needed?

Cashier’s checks are most often used to pay for expensive goods or services from vendors that don’t take personal checks or credit cards. Typically, people use cashier’s checks in brokerage or real estate transactions. These are transactions that require large sums of money that people don’t feel comfortable carrying cash to pay for.  

Why Don’t Some Vendors Accept Personal Checks?

Large personal checks can take a long time to clear, sometimes as long as a week. Cashier’s checks, on the other hand, are often cleared for transfer the same business day. Additionally, personal checks can be stolen or the checks themselves will bounce. 

With a cashier’s check, there’s no danger of it bouncing or fraud being committed. It’s hassle-free and is a win-win for the vendor and the payer.  

Information Needed to Get a Cashier’s Check

In order to get a cashier’s check, you must provide the following information to the bank teller:

  • Recipient’s name: Must be printed on the check. It cannot be written in later.
  • Amount: Must also be printed on the check; you can’t decide the amount later. At printing, you must have either the amount available in cash to give the teller or the funds available for transfer via your checking or savings account.
  • ID: Must be government-issued (such as a driver’s license or passport)

Does a Cashier’s Check Cost Anything?

You must first, obviously, provide the bank with the funds to cover the amount written on the check before it can be printed. After that, there may be additional fees.

Depending on your bank or credit union, the fee may be somewhere between $3 and $10, or a small percentage of the check’s value. If you have a premium account with your bank or credit union, it’s possible to get the fee waived entirely.

Can You Charge a Cashier’s Check?

The most you should be able to do is use a debit card to fund the cashier’s check. Typically, credit cards, prepaid cards, and personal checks are not considered valid forms of payment. 

It is possible to do a cash advance with a credit card and then to use that cash to pay for a cashier’s check; however, you would then be paying two rounds of fees to do a cashier’s check. 

Steps to Get a Cashier’s Check

Getting a cashier’s check is fast easy. In fact, there are only three steps:

Step 1: Provide Necessary Information to Bank Teller

Show the bank teller your ID and provide the name of the check recipient as well as the amount you want on the cashier’s check.

Step 2: Pay The Amount You Want on The Cashier’s Check

You can pay in cash, have the funds withdrawn from your account, or use a debit card.

Step 3: Receive The Signed Check

After you have paid the amount on the cashier’s check, the bank teller will sign the check and give it to you along with a receipt. Once you have it, you can give it to the recipient to cash or deposit. 

Do You Have to Go in Person to Get a Cashier’s Check?

Oftentimes you do, but some banks will allow you to do it over the phone or online. When this is the case, the check is then directly mailed to the recipient. 

Do You Have to Have an Account With The Bank to Get a Cashier’s Check?

It certainly makes things easier if you do. However, all banks and credit unions will issue cashier’s checks to anyone provided they have the funds to pay for the check. 

What Happens if You Lose a Cashier’s Check?

It’s not the end of the world if you lose a cashier’s check, but it can be a hassle. The money is not necessarily lost, but you do have to take steps to get another check.

First, contact the bank and tell them you need to file a Declaration of Loss. A Declaration of Loss in this scenario is a legal document that states that you have lost the check. After 90 days, if the check is still not found, the funds will be released to either the payee or back to you the payor. 

After you sign the Declaration of Loss the bank will, in turn, require you to sign an indemnity agreement, which is another legal document that states you to agree to pay the amount of the original check again if both it and the second check are cashed.  

To protect yourself from paying twice, you can purchase a surety bond. A surety bond covers the full amount of the original check in the event that it is lost. To purchase one, it must have been at least 30 days since the original check was lost. Surety bonds cost at minimum $100 or 2% of the check total.

Cashier’s Check vs Money Order

You can’t purchase a money order larger than $1,000, but the upside is that you can purchase one from a variety of locations. Fees are typically only $5 or less. 

With money orders, it is the payor’s responsibility to fill out the recipient’s name. This means if you lose it, or if it’s stolen, anyone could cash the money order, which makes it riskier than a cashier’s check.

Cashier’s Check vs Certified Check

Certified checks are drawn from a personal bank account instead of the bank’s account and will have the word ‘certified’ at the top. This means that the check is guaranteed to be legitimate by the bank, meaning that the signature is real and that the payor has the proper amount of funds in his or her bank account to cover the check. 

Are there any dangers to using a cashier’s check?

Forged checks have always been a problem. More and more often these days, people are getting scammed with cashier’s checks by people they’ve met online who live overseas. The victims, thinking they’ve met a helpful friend, will cash the check and send a little bit back overseas. One or two days later, they’re answering questions from the police and scrambling to pay back whatever amount they cashed.

If you know anything about cashier’s checks, it’s confusing as to how people can get scammed this way, but it happens every day. As long as you don’t cash a cashier’s check from someone you don’t know, a cashier’s check is safe, legal tender. It’s unfortunate that criminals have found ways to use them to exploit their victims because, when used properly, they can make financial transactions a lot less risky to everyone involved.  

Protecting Yourself When Cashing a Cashier’s Check

The number one thing you can do is to not use the funds until the check clears. If there’s any problem with the cashier’s check, you will be viewed as equally culpable as the person who gave it to you. For this reason, wait to spend any money. If there’s any problem, you can simply give the money back.

How Long is a Cashier’s Check Good For?

It depends on the bank or credit union. Most won’t have an expiration date. So, in theory, you could give someone a cashier’s check and they could cash it ten years later.

However, with some banks, there is an expiration date of 90 days after it was printed. This means that they can only guarantee that they will have the funds for it for that amount of time. After that time has passed, the check is void and cannot be cashed.

The Bottom Line

It can’t be stressed enough that getting a cashier’s check is a painless process and only takes a moment or two of your time. Just be sure to check up on local money order options if you don’t need a check more than $1,000. It may be in your best interest to get a money order to avoid high bank or credit union fees.