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Any looney tune with a pen and a checkbook can scribble out a personal check -- but only a bank teller from a certified financial institution can cut a cashier's check.

Cashier's checks are legitimate, trustworthy and prove that you're a serious buyer.

You'll probably be asked for one the next time you make a big purchase, like a house or a car. Let’s take a closer look at what a cashier's check is, when you'll need one, and how to get it.

What's a cashier's check anyway?

Teller window with working cashier
Africa Studio / Shutterstock
You'll go to a bank teller to get a cashier's check.

Your bank will print a cashier's check for you upon request, and the teller will transfer money from your account into the bank's own account and hold the money until the check is cashed.

When you give a cashier's check, the recipient can feel confident about being paid, because the bank will make certain the money is available.

A cashier’s check can’t bounce because it's guaranteed to be legitimate.

Cashier's checks aren't free. The website MyBankTracker says you'll pay up to $10.75 for a cashier's check. The average charged by major banks is $9.10.

Cashier's checks vs. personal checks

When you write a personal check, the money is withdrawn from your personal account and may take days to clear once the recipient cashes the check.

But cashier's checks clear instantly or by the next day, even when they involve large sums of money.

Because they’re reliable and fast, cashier’s checks are most commonly used for transferring large amounts of money for big purchases.

Cashier’s checks are more trustworthy than personal checks. It's an unfortunate fact that some people knowingly write checks that won't clear. But a recipient will always know that the amount on a cashier's check is valid.

When you’ll need a cashier's check

Young couple is smiling while buying a car, middle aged worker of a motor show is giving keys, close-up
George Rudy / Shutterstock
You may need to present a cashier's check when you buy a car.

When someone asks for a cashier’s check, it’s not that they don’t trust you — they just trust your bank teller more.

If you’re purchasing a car or a house, you can expect to be asked for a cashier's check for the full cost or for a down payment. It's the most secure and fastest way to prove you have the money for the purchase.

Buying a house? Use our calculator to determine your mortgage payment.

Anytime you’re receiving a large payment from someone you don’t know, you can ask for a cashier’s check.

Selling a car? If the buyer would rather not show up with a wallet full of cash, that’s fine. Just request a cashier’s check instead.

Never accept a personal check in these situations! It may be difficult to get hold of the buyer if the check doesn’t clear.

How to get a cashier's check

If you need to use a cashier's check, the easiest and fastest way to obtain one is in-person at your home bank.

Tellers who see you regularly will process your request faster than someone who’s never seen you before. After all, it’s their job to confirm that the funds are legitimate.

Some banks will cut you a cashier’s check even if you don’t have an account there, but the process can be much slower.

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