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Cashier's Checks: Why You Need Them, How to Get Them
As a business owner, you likely conduct most financial transactions by credit card or through your business checking account. There may be situations, however, when need to send a significant amount of money to a business or individual. In such cases, a cashier's check may be your best option. Cashier's checks are a safe, secure and traceable payment method with benefits for both sender and recipient.
What is a Cashier's Check?
A cashier's check, also sometimes called an "official check," is a paper check that is drawn on a bank's escrow account. It is issued by the bank directly to the payee. Cashier's checks are often used to cover high dollar amount financial transactions in which the payee wants to be assured that the check is "good" and won't bounce.
Where Can I Get a Cashier's Check?
Cashier's checks can be purchased through banks and credit unions. Each institution has its own policies regarding cashier's checks, so it's best to do some research before showing up at the bank.
If You Have a Bank or Credit Union Account
A bank or credit union teller can issue the cashier's check during normal business hours. Depending on your bank's policies, there may be a fee for the check, usually in the neighborhood of $7 to $10.
Before approaching the teller, look for the table with deposit slips located in your bank's lobby. In some cases, a request for a cashier's check may be incorporated into your bank's withdrawal slips. This is because most patrons who request cashier's checks use funds from their accounts to cover the cost of a check, although it is also possible to simply pay for the check with cash. The withdrawal slip also asks for the recipient's name so that the bank can print it directly on the check.
If it is After Hours or You Aren't Close to a Branch
Some banks offer the option of purchasing a cashier's check online and having it sent directly to the recipient. Your bank's website may provide information on this service. If you can't verify this possibility online, call your bank's customer service number to find out whether online service is available.
If You Don't Have a Bank Account
If you don't have a bank account, getting a cashier's check may be a challenge. Some banks may allow you to buy a cashier's check in exchange for cash, but it is best to call ahead to find out whether a local bank branch offers this service.
When you receive a cashier's check from your bank, you'll also be provided with a receipt. You may need to present the receipt to the bank if the cashier's check is lost or stolen and must be replaced. Keep in mind, however, that it can take a bank up to 90 days to replace the check or refund the funds to your account. You will also be required to purchase an indemnity bond. This kind of delay can have severe repercussions on your finances, so it's important to be careful with cashier's checks. If you must mail a cashier's check to a business or individual, consider paying extra for overnight delivery or registered mail.
Why Would I Need to Use Cashier's Checks in My Business?
Cashier's checks are considered to be a secure form of transferring funds. This is because they are drawn directly on your bank, so they can't bounce. In the course of doing business, you will likely encounter situations in which being able to provide a cashier's check is useful or essential:
- Timing: Vendors, particularly those who have not worked with you in the past, may insist that a business or personal check clear their bank before beginning work on a project. With a cashier's check, the vendor doesn't have to worry about collecting payment once it has verified that your cashier's check is valid.
- Credit limits: If you need to pay a bill that exceeds the limit on your corporate credit card, you can use a cashier's check to quickly make a secure payment.
- By request: Some businesses, financial institutions and creditors may request payment in the form of a cashier's check, particularly if a lot of money is changing hands.
- Good faith: Being able to provide funds in the form of a cashier's check can be a sign of good faith on your part. This may be particularly true if you are working with a new vendor. You may also want to provide a cashier's check in situations where you have had problems with the recipient, such as slow payments on your end or even a bounced check. By making a secure payment, you demonstrate that you are aware of the recipient's concerns and show that you are trying to meet your obligations.
What are Some Alternatives to Cashier's Checks?
While cashier's checks provide significant security, they aren't always an option. Here are some alternatives:
Money orders: A money order is a secure method of payment that looks similar to a paper check, but has already been paid for. This means that a valid money order cannot be returned for insufficient funds. Banks sell money orders, but it is also possible to buy a money order at the post office, check-cashing services and through some retail stores. Money orders are typically less expensive than cashier's checks, but there is often a limit on a money order's value, which may be less than $1,000.
Certified checks: A certified check is a personal or business check that has undergone verification by a bank employee. By certifying the check, the employee acknowledges that there are funds to cover the check amount and that the signature is that of the check writer. The bank then sets aside those funds until the check has been presented for payment.
Bank payment systems: Many banks offer online payment systems that allow you to send a paper check directly from the bank or transfer funds to a recipient's account. Your bank may have dollar limits on how much money you are allowed to pay out or transfer in a given day. On the upside, these payment systems may have few, if any, associated fees.
Wire transfers: Another option is to wire money directly to a recipient's account. This can be done through a bank or credit union, as well as third-party services such as Western Union.
While cashier's checks are a secure payment method, they can also be forged. Fake cashier's checks are used in many scams, and it can be difficult for a recipient, or even a recipient's bank, to determine whether a check is genuine. As a result, some businesses may not accept them or may require a waiting period so the check can clear before beginning work or providing goods. When possible, obtain a cashier's check through a bank that is likely to be known and accessible to the recipient, such as a "big" bank with branches nationwide, or, if you and the recipient are in the same area, a local bank that everyone in the area is familiar with. This allows the recipient to more easily verify your payment.
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Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.