When you’re expecting a big payment, you may wonder what’s the safest way to receive it. For example, you might be selling a high-ticket item to a stranger through Craigslist. And if you’re the one who needs to make a large payment—for a down payment on a house or when purchasing a car, for example—the payee may request a more secure form of payment than cash or a personal check.
Both cashier’s checks and certified checks may be a good choice in these scenarios. While the names are similar and share some features—including increased safety compared to personal checks—there are some critical differences between them.
- Both cashier’s checks and certified checks are official checks that a bank guarantees.
- Compared to personal checks, cashier’s checks and certified checks are generally viewed as more secure and less susceptible to fraud. However, it’s essential to be on the lookout for scams.
- Cashier’s checks are generally regarded as the safer bet since the funds are drawn against the bank’s account, not a person’s or business’s account.
A cashier’s check is drawn against the bank’s funds, not the money in your checking account. To get a cashier’s check, you transfer funds from your checking or savings account into the bank’s account (plus a small premium for the service). A bank representative then issues the cashier’s check with the bank’s name and account information and the names of the payee and remitter. The funds are usually then available to the payee by the next business day.
When you write a certified check, the money is drawn directly against your checking account, and your name and account number appear on the check. In addition to your signature, a bank representative will also sign the check, and it will have the words “certified” or “accepted” printed somewhere on it. The bank has guaranteed that check and may put a hold on those funds until the check clears.
Even though the bank certifies that the person writing a certified check has the money available in their account, the funds stay in that person’s bank account until the payee deposits the accredited check.
Which is Safer?
Assuming that the check is genuine, both cashier’s and certified checks are secure forms of payment. However, a cashier’s check is regarded as the safer bet since the funds are drawn against the bank’s account, not a person’s or business’s account. Plus, certified checks do not have the same watermarks that cashier’s checks have, making them slightly easier to fake.
Beware of Check Fraud
Fraudulent check scams can take many forms, but one of the most common involves a scammer passing off a fake certified or cashier’s check as payment for a purchase. Let’s say, for example, that you have a car listed for sale through an online marketplace. The scammer contacts you to say they’re interested and presents you with an official-looking check from a bank as payment for the car. After you’ve deposited that check, however, the bank tells you that it’s a fake. Not only are you out the money, but you’ve also lost the car in the process. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency warns against this type of scam.
Generally, banks are required by law to make money from official bank checks (including cashier’s and certified checks) available to you within one business day after you deposit it to your account. But having the funds available doesn’t guarantee that the review is good. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it can take weeks for a bank to discover check fraud.
You may have written checks or made purchases with your debit card against that amount by that time. If those debit payments are returned or Younce, that could mean overdraft or non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees for you.
The FTC and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) offer some tips for avoiding fraud involving cashier’s checks and certified checks. First, carefully consider before accepting any official reviews from people or businesses you don’t know well. If a buyer asks specifically to pay with a certified or cashier’s check, you might want to suggest an alternative payment method, such as an escrow service or online payment.
If you decide to accept a cashier’s or certified check as payment, call the bank that issued the check to verify whether it’s the real thing. Look up the bank’s phone number online, rather than dialling the number printed on the check (which could be fake).
Finally, if you receive a cashier’s or certified check that you weren’t expecting, think twice before depositing it in your account. Lottery and sweepstakes scams are another forms of check fraud.
The Bottom Line
Both cashier’s checks and certified checks can be a secure way to pay, but you should be familiar with the signs of a check fraud scam any time you’re accepting one of these checks from someone you don’t know. And if you do suspect that an official check you’ve received and deposited into your account is fraudulent, contact your bank right away to minimise any fees you may be charged for insufficient funds or returned payments.
What Is a Cashier’s Check?
A cashier’s check is a secure way to make large payments. The check itself is written by a financial institution such as a bank or credit union against its funds. When you request a cashier’s check from your bank, money is moved out of your account and into the bank’s account, and then a bank representative (usually a teller) signs it over to a named third party. (The check will include the names of both the recipient and remitter.) specific some scenarios, the benefits and protections that a cashier’s check offer make it a better choice than a personal check.
- A cashier’s check cannot bounce.
- Due to watermarks and required bank signatures, a cashier’s check is hard to counterfeit. However, there are certain cashier’s check scams to look out for.
- With a cashier’s check, the funds are usually available to the payee by the next business day.
How Cashier’s Checks Work
An individual can use a cashier’s check instead of a personal statement to guarantee that funds are available for payment. A cashier’s check is secure because the individual must first deposit the amount of the bill into the issuing institution’s account. The person or entity to whom the statement is made out is guaranteed to receive the money when cashing the check.
A cashier’s check is typically associated with a large payment that warrants extra protection. For example, you might use a cashier’s check to:
- Make a down payment on a home
- Pay closing costs for a mortgage
- Buy a car or boat
- Purchase a piece of land
In other words, they’re not generally used for everyday spending.
Always get a receipt for a cashier’s check to protect yourself if it is lost or stolen.
Cashier’s checks provide several advantages. The payee—the person receiving the funds—knows that the bill won’t bounce, as it’s being drawn from the bank’s account. Because cashier’s checks usually have watermarks and require signatures from one or more bank employees, the bank has a reassurance that the bill won’t be counterfeited.
You don’t have to worry about sharing your checking account information with the payee, as the check isn’t drawn from your account. Finally, the funds are usually available by the next business day. With an extensive personal statement, the bank might place a hold of several days to allow the check time to clear.
Always get a paper or digital receipt for a cashier’s check. Your receipt verifies proof of payment, and it’s something you’ll want to have if a cashier’s check is lost or stolen. If it is, you can ask the bank to reissue the check. However, the bank may ask for an indemnity bond first, making you liable for the check’s replacement. And it’s not an instant process. Depending on the bank, you may have to wait 30 to 90 days to receive a replacement cashier’s check.
Cashier’s Check vs. Other Forms of Payment
Some banks will only issue a cashier’s check to someone who has an account with that institution. If you can’t get a cashier’s check or a payee won’t accept one, there are other options for making large payments that offer varying levels of safety.
The bank does not guarantee traditional checks. If there are not sufficient funds in the remitter’s account to cover the draft, the bank can return the bill. As a result, the payee receives no funds from the bad check. Cashier’s checks remove this element of risk.
A money order isn’t a check, but it is a secure form of payment. You purchase the money order for a specific dollar amount and write it out to the payee. They take it to the bank and either deposit it or cash the check.
Compared to a cashier’s check, a money order may be less expensive. The United States Postal Service, for example, offers them for less than $2. They’re also more convenient to get, as you’re not limited to finding them at banks and credit unions. You can purchase money orders at the post office, supermarkets, and some gas stations. And you don’t need a bank account to get a money order; you just need to have the cash to cover the money order and the fee.
Certified checks are like cashier’s checks, but they’re drawn directly against your account. It’s essentially still a personal check, but it’s signed by both you and the bank. The bank guarantees a certified check and may put a hold on some of the funds in the account holder’s account, but it doesn’t move the funds from that account to its reserves. However, if there are insufficient funds in your account to cover the certified check, you’ll have to pay any associated fees the bank charges.
One difference between a certified check and a cashier’s check is that the former may be a less secure form of payment. These checks may not have the same watermarks, making them easier to duplicate. In general, though, a certified check is still a more secure way to pay than a money order or a personal check.
With a wire transfer, money is sent electronically directly from your account to someone else’s, with no check needed. It’s a low-stress way to send money, but there are some downsides.
For one thing, wire transfers can be more expensive than cashier’s checks, certified checks, or money orders. Depending on the bank and where the money is going, you may pay between $10 to $45 to execute a wire transfer. Institutions may also charge a fee to receive a wire transfer.
The other drawback is that wire transfers aren’t always instant. It can take several days for an international wire transfer to be completed, which may not be convenient for your payee if the money is needed quickly.
Social payment apps
Social payment apps may help send money to friends and family. With these apps, you can send money to someone’s email address or phone number using your bank account, debit card, credit card, or a balance you have in the app. Transfers can be instant, and—depending on where the money for the transfer comes from—you may pay zero fees.
Some apps limit how much you can send in a single transaction and per day. If you have a large amount to send, you may be better off looking at a cashier’s check or one of the other options mentioned above.
Examples of Cashier’s Check Scams
Although cashier’s checks are a low-risk way to transfer money, thieves have developed several scams centred on them. In one, a buyer contacts someone who is selling something and offers to buy it with a cashier’s check written for a higher amount than the sale price. They ask the seller to wire the difference to another party. After the seller wires the money, they try to deposit the cashier’s check and learns that it is fraudulent.
In another popular scam, the victim receives a letter stating they are selected to work as a mystery shopper. The letter contains a cashier’s check, and it instructs the victim to use part of the check to buy merchandise during the mystery shopping excursions, wire part of the check to a third party, and keep the remainder as pay. To be successful, the scam relies on the victim wiring the funds before discovering the cashier’s check is a fake.
How to Handle a Lost Cashier’s Check
Understanding Cashier’s Checks
Cashier’s checks can be a safe way to receive payments from businesses or individuals—or make payments to them. These official checks are purchased using money from a personal or business checking account, deposited into the bank’s performance. The bank then issues a cashier’s check in its name, which makes these checks lower risk than personal checks.
But what happens if you purchase a cashier’s check—or you receive one—and it ends up getting lost? Don’t panic; you do have some remedies when a lost cashier’s check throws a wrench in your financial plans.
How to Handle a Lost Cashier’s Check
If you purchase a cashier’s check and lose it, the first step is to report the loss to your bank. You may have to complete a declaration of loss statement, which says you verify that the check is lost and can’t be found. From there, the bank will most likely ask you to purchase an indemnity bond. This ensures that the bank isn’t liable if you lose the check again or if it’s damaged or stolen.
- Cancelling a cashier’s check is more complex than cancelling a personal bank check.
- If you lose a cashier’s check, you must notify the bank, fill out a declaration of lost form, and wait–it can take 90 days (after you file) to recoup the money.
- The bank will levy a fee of $30 or more when you cancel a cashier’s check.
You can purchase an indemnity bond through an insurance company, but according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), you may need an insurance broker’s help to do so. And, if you’re successful in buying an indemnity bond, the bank may require you to wait 30 to 90 days before issuing a replacement check. That could be problematic if you need the bill for something like paying your rent, buying a home, or buying a car, and you don’t have other funds to fall back on.
Some banks may limit the amount of a cashier’s check that can be cancelledhonour.
But what if you lose a cashier’s check that was made out to you by someone else? In that case, the OCC says your first recourse is simply to ask the person who bought the check to buy another one. However, that may not be realistic for them financially, or they may simply not be willing to comply. If they opt not to purchase a replacement check, you could bring an indemnity bond to the bank that issued the original check and ask them to honor it.
Stopping Payment on a Lost Cashier’s Check
Can you simply stop payment on a lost cashier’s check? Technically, the OCC says you may be able to do that, depending on which bank issued the statement. Most banks allow you to initiate a stop payment over the phone or online, but it’s a good idea to call your bank to find out what its policies are for cashier’s checks.
Be aware that the bank may still require you to purchase an indemnity bond if you’re stopping payment on a cashier’s check. Also, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay a fee for stopping payment on a cashier’s check, which maybe $30 or more. And, you may have to wait up to 180 days for the bank to refund the money to your account.
The Bottom Line
It’s not ideal for losing a cashier’s check, but you do have options for dealing with it. However, suppose you’re worried about the possibility that you might lose a cashier’s check, whether you’re the purchaser or the recipient. In that case, the best option may be to look for alternate ways to send or receive money. You might consider using a money transfer company such as Western Union, PayPal, MoneyGram or Xoom, or electronic transfers from your checking account to be sure that your money won’t get lost in the shuffle.