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What Is a Cashier’s Check?

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If you’re about to lay out a big sum of money — say for a down payment on a new car or your closing costs on your first house — there’s a chance you’re going to be required to provide a cashier’s check.

If you’ve never heard of or used a cashier’s check, you may be wondering why you can’t just write a check from your personal checking account to handle the transaction. After all, they’ve already approved you for this transaction, so what gives?

Here’s how cashier’s checks work, why you may need one and how to go about getting one.

What Is a Cashier’s Check?

A cashier’s check is a check written by your bank or another bank on your behalf. As such, it’s guaranteed by the bank. Essentially, the bank has removed the funds from your account, or you’ve given them cash or a personal check, and they’ve written a check for that amount to the recipient of your choice. The bank typically charges you a small fee for providing a cashier’s check.

The major difference between a check from your bank and a check from your personal account is the bank’s guarantee that the funds will be available. This is important to a lot of institutions when dealing with large sums of money because, unlike a personal check, the payment is not going to be returned for nonsufficient funds. Plus, cashier’s checks typically have extra security features that make counterfeiting and other types of fraud more difficult.

But Isn’t a Money Order Kind of the Same Thing?

They might seem to be similar at first glance, but money orders are very different from cashier’s checks. Yes, money orders have already been paid for, but most money orders can be written only for a set amount. For example, a money order from the United States Postal Service cannot be cut for more than $1,000, whereas a cashier’s check can be written for, presumably, any sum the requester is able to pay. Also, money orders aren’t considered guaranteed because they aren’t backed by a particular banking institution.

Where to Get a Cashier’s Check

Nearly every banking institution offers cashier’s checks, and you can ask your bank whether you can request one by phone or if you have to go to your local branch to do so. Generally, you’ll be able to go directly to a branch office of your bank and purchase a cashier’s check.

Once you arrive at your branch, you’ll inform a teller that you need a cashier’s check and what amount you need it written for. The teller will confirm you have the funds available to cover the requested amount, then cut a bank check. That amount may be frozen in your account until the check clears, or withdrawn immediately.

Cashier’s Check Fees

This transaction usually comes with a bank fee, typically around $10, though some banks charge a percentage fee based on the amount requested, while others offer this service for free to bank customers.

What You’ll Need for the Transaction

Getting a cashier’s check typically requires that you physically go to the bank. You’ll also need to show ID and give them the name of the person or company to whom the check should be written. Some banks may also require a payee address or phone number, so either call ahead to confirm or have that information on hand prior to going to the banks.

Can I Buy a Cashier’s Check With My Credit Card?

Not typically, no, but if you don’t have the necessary funds on hand in your checking or savings account, you can always take a cash advance on your credit card, deposit those funds in your bank account, and then purchase a cashier’s check. Keep in mind, though, that cash advances often carry higher-than-usual interest rates, so if you won’t be able to pay off the balance soon, it could end up costing you a lot of money in interest payments.

What If I Lose It?

If you lose your cashier’s check before it gets to its rightful recipient, the issuing bank could require that you be bonded for the amount of the lost check before they cut another. This bond, known as an indemnity bond, essentially means that you are liable for the replacement check.

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