If you need to write a check with a large amount, consider requesting a cashier's check. But what are cashier's checks, how do they work, and where can you get one?
Cashier's checks are a type of check that draws from the funds of banks instead of your account. This means that the bank guarantees that checks are funded. They are ideal for large purchases because of the extra security, assuring adequate funds both for the person paying and the person receiving the payment.
Take a closer look at how and where you can get a cashier's check, as well as when you may want to use one.
Beginner's Guide to Cashier's Checks
If you are buying a home or making another large purchase, the seller or your realtor may suggest you use a cashier's check. Learn what these checks are, when you should use them, and how to get them.
What Is a Cashier's Check?
A cashier's check (or official check) is signed by the teller or cashier at the bank and draws on the funds of the bank. This contrasts with personal checks you sign and draw from your funds. Cashier's checks guarantee that the payment will go through because the funds are secure in the bank. In comparison, the funds of a personal check are guaranteed by the one paying, not the bank.
What Is a Cashier's Check Used For?
Cashier's checks are incredibly common for any large purchase, especially when a credit or debit card is not applicable. The most common instance when cashier's checks are used is buying a car or a home.
Why Do People Use Cashier's Checks?
The reason for using cashier's checks primarily comes down to security. It is a more secure alternative to personal checks because cashier's checks tend to have additional security features. Most cashier's checks include watermarks. Some even require two bank employees as signatories. Thanks to these security measures, it is much harder to counterfeit a cashier's check than a personal check.
How and Where to Get a Cashier's Check
Given that cashier's checks draw funds from banks, it should come as no surprise that you get them at banks or credit unions.
Can I Get a Cashier's Check From a Bank I Don't Have an Account With?
Some banks and credit unions will provide cashier's checks for anyone, while others limit this service to their customers. If you get a cashier's check from a bank where you don't have an account, you should expect slightly stricter requirements. For example, you will likely have to provide the funds in cash so the bank can secure them. You may also have to pay a higher fee than what customers at the bank are charged, and for some banks, customers are not even charged service fees.
You also have the option of opening an account at a given bank to get a cashier's check. Just make sure to factor in fees or requirements for opening accounts.
How To Get A Cashier's Check
The process of getting a cashier's check is pretty straightforward.
1. Gather Everything You Need
Start by gathering all your requirements for requesting a cashier's check. Expect to provide:
- The recipient's name
- Your personal identification
- Information on the amount to put on the check
- The money that will fund the check
If you are getting a cashier's check from a bank where you have an account, you will usually be able to supply the funds via a withdrawal from your account, though you will still have the option of paying in cash. When requesting a cashier's check from a bank where you don't have an account, expect to pay in cash.
2. Talk To A Teller
Next, visit the bank in person. You will want to talk to a teller to request a cashier's check. Provide them with all of the relevant information and requirements.
Many banks allow you to start the process over the phone or online. This is especially common with banks that have a strong digital system. Just remember that you won't get a cashier's check instantly simply by requesting it over the phone or online. After the transaction is done over the phone or online, the bank will have to mail the check to the recipient. Make sure you provide accurate information on your mailing address.
3. Pay For The Check
As mentioned, you can fund the check with cash or via withdrawal from your account. Some banks will freeze the amount in your account rather than processing a withdrawal.
You may also have to pay a fee for the cashier's check. Your bank may offer the service to customers without a fee or to those with certain types of accounts. If you are requested to pay a fee, they can range from $5 to $20.
4. Make Sure To Get A Receipt
At this point, the teller will give you the cashier's check. Make sure you ask for a receipt, as this is proof of payment. Sometimes, the receipt also lets you track the check, helping you confirm when it is cashed. It can also come in handy if you lose the check or retrieve the funds if it goes uncashed.
What Happens If a Cashier's Check Is Not Cashed?
You can get a refund if a check isn't cashed, but you will have to initiate the process.
Talk To The Bank To Get A Refund
You will not immediately get a refund for an uncashed cashier's check. This is especially true if you paid in cash and are not a customer of the issuing bank, as they have no easy way of paying you back. Additionally, most cashier's checks don't have expiration dates, so there's no specific date for banks to refund you automatically. (Note that some banks have policies for cashing checks only within a certain period.)
To request a refund, you will have to talk to representatives at the bank. If you requested the cashier's check in person, it is best to visit the bank in person. If you made the request online or over the phone, you can also initiate the refund that way.
If you think the check is uncashed because of theft, loss, or damage, the bank will have you fill out an affidavit. You will likely have to pay a fee in some banks.
If you are certain that the check is lost, you may need an indemnity bond. This bond means that you will be liable for the replacement check. Though it is difficult to get a replacement, it is frequently necessary to get this bond, as you can't cancel cashier's checks.
What If You Never Claim The Refund?
Every state has a maximum time frame for refunds, which is typically six years upon issue of the check. If you don't claim your refund within that time, the bank will report the uncashed check as "unclaimed property." It will then be listed in the state's records as your unclaimed property. It may also be called an "escheated check" in a process called escheating.
If your check is escheated, you can still get the funds. You will have to contact your state's Department of Revenue and provide your full legal name as stated on the check. You can also search for it by checking your state's website for unclaimed property.
Once you locate the check, you will have to submit a claim form. You will also need a government-issued photo ID. After receiving the form, the state will give you a new check in the same amount, but you will likely have a waiting period before receiving it.
What Is The Maximum Amount For A Cashier's Check?
Although there is no maximum amount for cashier's checks in general, some banks may have limits. As such, check if your required amount is within your bank's limits before requesting a cashier's check from them.
How Do Cashier's Checks Compare To Other Types Of Checks?
There are a few other terms that may come up when you are considering a cashier's check. Look at how it compares to the most common alternatives.
Cashier's Checks vs. Money Orders
You can get a money order from the bank, but you can also get it from the post office and numerous cash-checking outlets, gas stations, convenience stores, and groceries. Note that they typically have a limit of $1,000. Though money orders are easier to get and don't require a bank account, they are less secure. You will have to pay the vendor up front for the money order.
Cashier's Checks vs. Certified Checks
Certified checks are somehow considered a middle ground between personal checks and cashier's checks. They are personal checks certified by your bank to be adequately funded and have a validated signature.
Cashier's checks are drawn from the funds of a bank. They are more secure than personal checks due to extra safety features like watermarks, and they are commonly used for larger purchases such as cars or homes. You can get a cashier's check at nearly any credit union or bank, though many only offer this service to account holders.
Shawn Manaher is a former financial advisor, has founded 5 online businesses, and is a coach, speaker, podcast host, and author. He's been featured on Forbes, The Consults Corner on TAE Radio, The Writing Biz, What's Your Story, and more.