A certified check is a check that’s guaranteed to clear when cashed. They are similar to cashier’s checks in that both are issued by banks. The main difference of a certified check is that instead of being backed by the bank’s funds, the bank certifies the check writer’s account has sufficient funds to cover the check and often will not release the funds for any other reason.
Check fraud is common, so if you plan on making a large purchase with a personal check, the seller may not be comfortable accepting it. One way to better ensure a smooth transaction is to use a certified check.
A certified check is a personal check guaranteed by the issuing bank. This type of check has the account holder’s signature, but the bank verifies and guarantees that the account holder has enough cash in their account to cover the check, thus ensuring the check doesn’t bounce.
Let’s take a closer look at how certified checks work and when you might need to acquire one from your bank.
How a certified check works
A certified check is a personal check that can be issued by a bank or credit union. While certified checks are still signed with the account holder’s name, they differ from traditional personal checks in that a bank representative will verify that the payer’s account has enough money to cover the amount on the check. Most banks will then earmark the necessary funds to ensure the check will clear whenever it’s cashed.
The difference between a certified check and the more common cashier’s check is that certified checks are still technically personal checks. Although it’s unlikely, it is still possible for certified checks to bounce. This is because, like normal personal checks, the funds backing certified checks only come from the balance in the payer’s account. Some banks will refuse to release designated funds for any other purpose, but that doesn’t mitigate all potential risks.
Benefits of using a certified check
Cashier’s checks and certified checks are preferable — and sometimes required — when making a large purchase, such as a down payment on a house or a car. Some landlords may also ask you for a certified check for your security deposit.
The main benefit of official checks, like certified and cashier’s checks, is that they minimize check fraud. Official checks come with varying levels of guarantee from the bank that there will be enough money available for the payment to clear.
Another benefit of using a certified check for payment is that it will make the transaction much faster: many certified checks will clear the funds from a bank account in only one business day.
How to get a certified check
Getting a certified check is similar to getting a money order. In order to get a certified check from your bank, you will need to take the following steps:
How to get a certified check
- Ensure your financial institution offers certified checks.
- Visit your bank’s local branch and request a certified check from the teller.
- Write the check and show the teller your ID.
- Wait for the teller to verify the funds are in your account and mark the check with the bank’s stamp or signature.
- Pay whatever fee your bank charges for their certified check service.
The exact fee for official checks will vary by bank or credit union, but most financial institutions will charge customers between $10 and $20 per check.
What if my bank doesn’t offer certified checks?
Certified checks are not as common as they once were, as banks and credit unions have been transitioning away from them over the years. If you need an official check for a large transaction but your financial institution doesn’t offer certified checks, you can probably request a cashier’s check instead.
The process will be slightly different — you will need to pay for the check upfront and provide the teller with specific information, such as the purpose of the payment and the exact name of the business or payee for whom you’re requesting the check — but a cashier’s check will still serve the same use as a guaranteed payment option.
Certified check vs. cashier’s check
While certified and cashier’s checks are similar in many ways, cashier’s checks tend to be the more secure option overall. Although both are guaranteed checks, it is still possible for a certified check to bounce due to insufficient funds. A cashier’s check, on the other hand, is backed by the financial institution that issues it.
Once a cashier’s check is issued, the bank ensures that the check will clear by covering the payment from the bank’s account. This means a certified check will have the account number of the person writing the check, but a cashier’s check will have the account information of the financial institution itself.
How to avoid a fraudulent certified or cashier’s check
If you want to verify the legitimacy of a certified check, you should call the issuing bank. Legitimate certified checks may have the bank’s phone number printed on the back of the check. If the number isn’t printed on the check, you should be able to look up the issuing bank’s phone number online.
Depending on the bank’s customer service policies, you may need to contact the institution during a business day. If you are worried about a possibly fraudulent check, make sure to conduct the transaction during normal business hours so that you can call the bank immediately upon receiving the check.
- A certified check is a personal check that has been guaranteed by the issuing bank to clear upon being cashed.
- Certified checks are similar to cashier’s checks in that they come with a guarantee from a bank or credit union. The main difference is that a certified check is a personal check that still has a small chance to bounce, while a cashier’s check is covered by the funds in the issuing bank’s own account.
- You can usually get a certified or cashier’s check from your bank or credit union, provided you have a checking or savings account with that financial institution.
- To avoid check fraud whenever you receive an official check as payment, you should call the bank that issued the check to verify that it is valid.
Before you can request a certified or cashier’s check to cover your next big purchase, you’ll need a good checking account at a reliable financial institution. Fortunately, SuperMoney can help! Compare checking accounts at traditional banks and online banks using our comparison tool and find the best checking account for your needs!
View Article Sources
- Certified check – Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School
- What is a Certified Check: How & Where to Get a Certified Check – Huntington Bank
- Why do I need an indemnity bond to replace a lost cashier’s check? – HelpWithMyBank.gov
- Cashier’s check fraud and scams – Washington State Department of Financial Institutions