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Cashier’s checks and certified checks are both popular methods of payment for large financial transactions. While they both offer greater security than a regular check, there are differences between the two.

A cashier’s check is backed by the bank’s or credit union’s funds, whereas  a certified check is drawn from the buyer’s personal account. To help you understand the difference between the two, and to decide which one is right for your financial needs, let’s take a look at what each type of check is and why one might be a better choice than the other.

What is a cashier’s check?

A cashier’s check, also known as an “official bank check,” is a check issued by a bank or credit union, usually on behalf of its customer who pays the institution the face value of the check. Such a check is typically used for larger transactions. To obtain a cashier’s check, you provide the bank with the desired amount of money, and it issues a check using its own funds.

A cashier’s check provides peace of mind to the payee because it’s backed by the bank’s funds. It’s also beneficial when the check buyer wants to keep their bank account information private. A certified check, however, requires the individual to provide their personal information and account number on the check.

Cashier’s checks are more secure than regular personal checks because they’re guaranteed by the bank. If a cashier’s check bounces, or a loss of the check occurs, the financial institution generally is required by law to reimburse the recipient of the payment.

Fees for cashing a cashier’s check typically range from $5 to $15 for transactions exceeding $1,000. The fee can vary depending on the bank, with larger, established banks often charging a minimum fee of $10 (e.g. Wells Fargo charges $10 and Bank of America charges $15).

What is a certified check?

Like a personal check, a certified check functions by withdrawing funds from the accountholder’s checking account. However, a certified check undergoes a verification process by the bank to ensure that there are sufficient funds in the checking account to cover the amount stated on the check. The recipient of the funds can be certain that the bank has authenticated the check, the signature and the availability of funds. This process protects the recipient from receiving a bounced check.

The money for a certified check is directly debited from the issuer’s personal checking account, and their name and account number are stated on the check. A representative from the bank also signs and stamps the check, which often includes the terms “certified” or “accepted” printed on it.

The fee for a certified check can be higher than for a cashier’s check, usually around $15 to $20.

Differences between a cashier’s check and a certified check

A cashier’s check and a certified check can be similar in appearance, but they differ in where the money is withdrawn from. A cashier’s check uses the issuing bank’s funds while a certified check draws from the individual’s personal account.

The bank assumes responsibility for the amount of a cashier’s check, giving the payee greater confidence. Cashier’s checks also offer enhanced safety by not disclosing the payer’s personal bank account details.

Certified checks are obtained in person at a bank or credit union, which means customers of online-only banks may not be able to get one. The bank prints all the necessary information on a cashier’s check, eliminating the need for the customer to fill it out, which can be convenient.

While certified checks are useful for guaranteeing the availability of funds, the privacy of your personal bank account information is more secure with a cashier’s check.

Cashier’s check Certified check
Cost per item $5 to $15 $15 to $20
Availability Can be purchased at a bank or credit union, online or in person Can be purchased at a bank or credit union, but filled out in person
Source of funds The bank or credit union The payer
Safety No risk of bouncing, plus payer’s financial account information is kept private The financial institution verifies check to ensure its validity and that the payer has sufficient funds
Best for Those who need a secure payment method guaranteed by the financial institution itself, and those with an online-only account Those who want extra assurance that there are sufficient funds in the personal account

Bottom line

Cashier’s checks and certified checks are both secure ways to pay for larger transactions, but with a cashier’s check, the bank assumes responsibility for the check amount and the payer’s personal information remains private.

Cashier’s checks are more secure and offer greater convenience for customers of online-only banks while certified checks are more convenient for customers of traditional banks. Ultimately, the choice between a cashier’s check and a certified check should depend on the payer’s particular needs and preferences.