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Updated on Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Whether you’re paying for your groceries or paying the rent, writing a personal check will usually suffice. However, for much larger purchases, such as a down payment on your dream home or the classic 1950s hot rod that you’ve always wanted, you might be required to pay with a cashier’s check, also known as a teller’s check.
A cashier’s check — now called an official check by many financial institutions– is different from a personal check in that the bank or credit union signs it and guarantees the receiver that the funds are available — no chance of bouncing a check here! And, because the bank is signing the check, the chance of fraud is significantly reduced.
To get a cashier’s check, first ask your own bank if they offer the service. Most banks do it for their account holders as well as walk-ins; whereas most credit unions offer this service only to their members. You may also obtain a cashier’s check online. For example, Capital One members can order a cashier’s check by signing into their online account, choosing “Account Services and Settings” and then “Cashier’s Check” under the Checks tab.
How much does a cashier’s check cost?
According to MyBankTracker, the average fee for a cashier’s check is $9.10. For bank account holders and credit union members, the fee typically will be lower, or waived altogether. For example, Chase charges its account holders an $8 fee for a cashier’s check, but the fee is waived for those who have a Premier Plus Checking account. At Wells Fargo, the fee for their account holders is slightly higher than average — $10, plus an $8 delivery charge — but this can vary depending on the type of account the customer has.
Credit unions typically provide cashier’s checks for their members only and the costs can vary. For example, Alliant, a credit union based in Illinois, does not charge its members a fee for a cashier’s check unless the member wants the payment expedited. First Tech Federal Credit Union only provides cashier’s checks for its members and charges a $5 fee.
What information you need
Unlike a personal check, it is the bank or credit union representative who will be filling out and signing the cashier’s check, not you. You also cannot have a blank cashier’s check. When you order a cashier’s check online, however, you are the one who fills out the information. In both scenarios, you will need the name and address of the person or business you are paying, the amount of the check and, if you are doing the transaction in person, your identification. You also need cash or a debit card to cover the cost of the check. The money must be available in your account, and, importantly, the amount of money you assigned to the check will be frozen until the cashier’s check is cashed.
Other ways to pay
Say you need a check for $5,000 but a cashier’s check is not possible and you do not want to use your personal checking account. There are other payment options to choose from:
- Money order: A safer alternative to personal checks — they do not have your personal information on them — money orders have a limit of $1,000 and can be purchased for as little as $0.89 at Rite Aid or $1.20 at the post office. They can also be sent internationally (the cost of sending an international money order at the post office is $8.55). In this $5,000 scenario, you would need to purchase multiple money orders and pay multiple fees, but in this case it is still less than a cashier’s check fee.
- Wire transfer: Another way to send money is through wire transfer companies, such as Western Union or TransferWise. TransferWise allows a maximum of $50,000 per day or $250,000 per year to be sent by an individual. Western Union allows a wire transfer of as much as $2,999 per day. Fees vary depending on the cost of the transfer, whether the transaction is made online or in person and whether it is being sent domestically or internationally.
- Certified check: A certified check is a personal check written by you, the account holder, and certified by your bank that the money is available and that the signature is yours. It is very similar to a cashier’s check, except that it’s your check and not the bank’s.
- Apps: There are a variety of apps available to pay someone for goods and services, including PayPal, Venmo and Zelle. The fees and limits vary. For example, Venmo offers a $2.999.99 limit per week once your identity is verified. With PayPal, you can send as much as $60,000 per transaction, but you may be limited to $10,000 in a single transaction until you are verified. With Zelle, it depends on the bank. For example, Bank of America customers using Zelle may send $2,500 per day.