Banking

Cashier’s Check Guide: What It’s Used For, How to Get One


If you’re in the situation where you’re about to make a large purchase (such as a property, car, or business transaction) you may run into the situation where the seller requests a cashier’s check instead of a personal check or direct bank transfer. In this guide, we will look at why you’d want to use a cashier’s check, how to obtain one, how they differ from regular checks, and the costs and fees associated with each type.

What is a Cashier’s Check?

Cashier’s Checks are checks or certificates that are very handy for performing large transactions, because they are safer than handling large amounts of cash, and are also issued by the bank instead of the remitter (the person who is buying something). A cashier’s check is guaranteed from the issuing bank, which means that the bank itself covers the amount on the check instead of the person completing the purchase. It is literally the banks’ own money being used to complete a transaction. You may be wondering, why does this really matter? Why can’t someone use a personal check, why does it have to come from the bank? Take a look at this hypothetical situation:

Situation: Mike wants to buy Jacob’s property. Mike writes a personal check for $100,000 to buy the property and gives it to Jacob. Jacob takes this check to the bank and tries to deposit it, but there isn’t enough money in Mike’s bank account to cover the check! This means that the check will bounce. If Mike had given Jacob a cashier’s check, the funds would be taken from Mike’s bank, not Mike’s own personal account.

If you have an account with the bank and are in good standing, the bank will usually make amounts under $5,000 immediately available to you, or available in 7-10 business days. When you are dealing with larger amounts (usually over $5,000, but it varies from bank to bank), banks tend to hold the funds until the transaction clears.

How to obtain a cashiers check

A cashier’s check can be obtained from a teller at a bank. They will first ensure that the money you are trying to put on the cashier’s check is available in your account. Then they will freeze that money until the cashier’s check is deposited. If we use the example from the situation above, if Mike uses a cashier’s check to pay Jacob, Mike will have $100,000 in his account frozen, then when Jacob deposits the check, the bank will pay him from their funds, and then take the $100,000 from Mike’s account that already had the frozen funds allocated. If a bank cannot verify that you have the money in your account to complete the transaction, they will usually not issue you a cashier’s check. This may occur if you are going to a third party bank that you do not have an account with. You cannot obtain a cashier’s check over the phone*, it must be done in person and you must have a form of identification in order to prove that you are the account owner.

It is not possible to obtain a “blank” cashier’s check. With that said, you should have all the information needed to fill out a cashier’s check ready before you walk into the bank and speak to a teller. You should have the full name or business name of the person you will be paying as well as what will go in the memo.

*Note: Some private banks, such as USAA, offer cashier’s checks over the phone, but there are fees associated with sending the check to you via mail.

How much does it cost to get a cashier’s check?

Cashier’s checks can range from $10-$15 per check depending on the bank or financial institution you are using. Sometimes the bank will take a certain percentage of the total amount being put on the check, so it’s important to talk with your bank ahead of time and ensure that it is a flat rate fee regardless of the total check amount. If you have a business account, cashier’s checks are usually no-fee or significantly discounted. Again, this varies from bank to bank. Use the chart below to check the prices for each major bank.

Cashier’s Check Prices (Based on Bank)
Name Website Price
Well’s Fargo Well’s Fargo Pricing Page $10 each check
Bank of America Bank of America Pricing Schedule $10, waived for some account types
Chase Bank Chase Bank Premier Plus Charges $8, Free for Premier Plus Checking accounts
US Bank US Bank Consumer Pricing Info $7
PNC Bank PNC Bank – Charges Free
 Wiyre.com Cashiers check prices Accurate as of 1/01/2016

 

Cashier’s Check Scams – What to look out for

Cashier’s Checks are becoming popular items to perform fraudulent activity with, because any amount under $5,000 are automatically deposited into the bank, scam artists will usually use fraudulent cashier’s checks and attempt to trick you into sending money to them before the check actually clears and the bank realizes it’s a fake. You should always wait at least a week before doing anything with the money that was deposited from a cashier’s check just to ensure that it was not fraudulent. These scams have really started to pick up online, as we covered earlier in the Craigslist Cashier’s Check Scam. A few things to look out for when dealing with cashier’s checks:

  • Cashier’s checks come with distinct watermarks on the front and back of the check
  • Cashier’s checks are usually perforated on one or both sides
  • Always contact the bank that issued the cashier’s check to ensure legitimacy – if you cannot find out any information about the bank, do not accept or try to cash the check!
  • Be cautious of dealing with people who say they are located outside of the country
  • Never accept cashier’s checks or any other check of any kind on Craigslist. 

 

If you’re dealing with a smaller amount of cash, but still don’t want to use a personal check, you might want to look into using a money order instead.

What happens if I lose the cashier’s check or it’s stolen?

If you notice that the check has been stolen or lost, you should immediately contact your bank (or the bank that issued the check) and report it as lost or stolen. You’ll then fill out a form called a declaration of loss, which is a written statement made under the penalty of perjury that you are not lying about having lost the check, and you have no intention of cashing it if you do end up finding it. The declaration of loss will give you the ability to claim the funds, but you’ll have to wait either 90 days after the cashier’s check was issued, or 90 days after the declaration of loss was filled out, depending on the bank.

Once the 90 days passes, the bank will release the funds to whomever filed the claim and you can go and deposit the money. Let’s say someone steals the check and tries to cash it after the 90 day waiting period – the bank will deny the deposit and refuse the check.

In some situations, you can ask for a replacement check, but the dollar amount usually cannot be very high or else the bank will refuse to issue another check. This really only happens under very specific circumstances, you should not get your hopes up that bank will provide you with a replacement, especially since they are on the hook for paying both checks if the lost one happens to show up.

Jon Bottarini
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