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What is a cashier's check?
A cashier’s check is a check drawn from the bank’s own funds and signed by a cashier or teller. Unlike a regular check, the bank guarantees payment of a cashier’s check, not the check writer.
When do I need a cashier's check?
Cashier’s checks are best for large purchases, such as a car or house sale, when you likely can't use a debit or credit card. These checks have extra security features — such as watermarks and sometimes signatures by two bank employees — that make counterfeiting more difficult. So when you purchase one from a bank or credit union, all parties can be confident that the transaction is secure and the risk of theft or fraud is minimal.
A cashier's check can also be called an official check.
» Here's how to decide between a cashier's check and a money order
How can I get a cashier’s check?
Most banks and credit unions offer cashier's checks to their customers. Here's how to get one:
Have the exact amount and recipient's name ready before requesting the check, as well as personal identification. Cashier's checks are drawn on a financial institution's funds, but you supply the check amount to your bank ahead of time. And you need the name of the "payee," the business or person you are paying, since you can't get a blank cashier's check. You should also have your ID ready; the teller will probably ask to see it.
Visit a nearby branch and request the check from a teller. This is the standard way, but some banks, especially online-focused ones, make other methods available such as calling or sending an online message to their customer support team. In those cases, a cashier's check would then be mailed to your recipient, which takes longer. If you need the check that day, visit a branch if your bank has one, or find a bank or credit union that accepts non-customers.
Pay the check amount plus any applicable fee. If the funds are in an account at that institution, the full amount of the check will be frozen in your account or withdrawn when the check is issued. Have enough in the account to pay any fee as well. If the bank gives checks to non-customers, cash would be the main payment method. The teller will issue and sign the cashier's check.
Get a receipt. Ask for proof of payment. You might be able to use this to track the check.
If you don't have a checking account at a bank or credit union, you might need to open one. Banks and credit unions are the only institutions that can issue cashier's checks, and they aren't required to provide them to people who aren't customers. Some do it, but at least three national banks don't issue them to anyone but account holders. If opening a bank account isn't practical, a money order might be your next-best option.
» In the market for a bank? See the best checking accounts
Cashier’s check vs. certified check vs. money order
A certified check is a personal check written by a bank customer and drawn on the customer’s account. The bank certifies that the signature is genuine and that the customer had sufficient funds to cover the check when it was issued. (Here are tips on when you should use a certified check.)
Money orders are a prepaid type of payment restricted by a maximum amount, such as the U.S. Postal Service's $1,000 limit on money order purchases. Unlike cashier’s checks, money orders aren’t backed by a bank since they are paid in advance, usually with cash or a debit card. (Here's the lowdown on when it makes sense to use a money order.)
What are the fees for a cashier's check or a certified check?
Many banks and credit unions offer cashier's checks and certified checks, though not all offer both, and some differ on terminology, calling them “official checks.” Ask your financial institution for availability and pricing. Some financial institutions offer reduced fees or no fees for certain account holders. Many sell them only to account holders.
Here's a list of official check fees at popular banks.
Some of nerdwallet's favorite places to get free cashier's checks
How can I avoid cashier's check fraud?
Avoid taking a cashier’s check from someone you don’t know. 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.
Don't accept a cashier’s check from someone you don’t know. Try not to use the funds — even if you can — until the check clears.”
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.
» Learn more about how to avoid cashier's check fraud
What if I lose the cashier's check?
Canceling a cashier's check is generally not an option. If you lose a cashier’s check, the bank may require that you get an indemnity bond before issuing another one. (Here's more information about indemnity bonds and what to do if you lose a cashier's check.)
The bond, which is not that easy to get, makes you liable for the replacement check, according to the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The bank regulator recommends contacting an insurance broker for help.
Even with the bond, the bank may require that you wait more than a month for a replacement check.
Recap: How to get a cashier's check
Have the exact amount and recipient's name ready before requesting the check, as well as personal identification.
Visit a nearby branch and request the check from a teller.
Pay the check amount plus any applicable fee.
Get a receipt.