Certified Check: What Is It and How to Use It

ByG. Dautovic
January 27, 2022

What is a certified check? A certified check is a type of check that has been certified by the bank. This means that the bank has verified the associated funds and guarantees payment. Because of this, certified checks are often considered more secure than other check types. Let's take a closer look at them and learn how to use them best!

How Certified Checks Work

Certified checks are among the most secure payment options available. When you buy a certified check, the bank verifies that you have enough money in your bank account to cover its cost. The bank then guarantees payment on the check, meaning that if it is ever lost or stolen, the bank will cover any losses incurred.

One downside to certified checks is that they often come with higher fees than other check types. Additionally, they can take a bit longer to clear than other types of payments.

When to Use Certified Checks

Certified checks are most commonly used for larger transactions, like purchasing a car or a home. They can also be used for online payments, as the bank has already verified the funds associated with the check.

If you're looking for a more secure payment option than a standard personal check, and you don't need the funds from your check immediately, certified checks are a great choice. Just be sure to factor in any additional fees and allow adequate time for the funds to clear.

How to Get a Certified Check

Most credit unions and banks offer certified checks to their customers. You must have an active checking account to get a certified check, and you'll likely need to provide some identification, like a photo ID, when you request one. The bank representative will then verify that you have enough money in your account to cover the cost of the certified check.

If you don't have a bank account or if your bank doesn't offer them, you can also get certified checks from check-cashing services. Just be aware that these services often charge steep fees for their services.

Certified Checks vs. Cashier’s Checks

Some banks will offer only cashier's checks instead of certified checks. The main difference between them is that certified checks are written by the individual, while cashier's checks are written by the bank. This means that certified checks can be used for online payments, while cashier's checks cannot.

When you use a cashier's check, the bank verifies that you have enough money in your account to cover the check. The bank then guarantees payment on the check, meaning that if it is ever lost or stolen, the bank will cover any losses incurred.

Cashier's checks are often considered more secure than certified checks and usually come with lower fees. They also tend to clear faster than certified checks.

Alternatives to Certified Checks

There are other ways to guarantee payment beyond certified and cashier's checks. One popular option is to use a credit card. When you use it for a purchase, the credit card company guarantees payment for that purchase. This means that if you don't pay your credit card bill, the credit card company is on the hook for the money.

Another option is to use a debit card. When you use your debit card for a purchase, the funds are transferred immediately from your checking account to the merchant's account. This means that you don't have to worry about your check being lost or stolen, as the funds are already where they should be.

You can also use wire transfers, money orders, or PayPal to guarantee payment for a purchase.

How to Avoid Fraud With Certified Checks

While certified checks are much more difficult to forge than personal checks, it's still important to be aware of the signs of fraudulent certified checks. Some of the things to look for are the following:

  • The check is written for an amount that is significantly higher than what you expected
  • The bank routing number and account number are incorrect
  • The name on the check doesn't match the name on your account
  • The check is dated more than six months ago

If you encounter any of these signs, be sure to report the check to your bank immediately. By being aware of the possible signs of bank fraud, you can help protect yourself and your finances.

Conclusion

Certified checks are a secure payment option that can be used for online payments. They are ideal for larger transactions. Just be sure to factor in any additional fees and allow adequate time for the checks to clear.

FAQ

Do certified checks clear immediately?

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Certified checks typically take a bit longer to clear than other types of payments. This is because the bank has to verify the funds associated with the check before approving it.

Is a certified check as good as cash?

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Once they've cleared, certified checks are as good as cash. The funds may take a bit longer to clear, but once they have, it’s really the same thing, except you can be certain that it’s good money because it went through thorough bank checks.

Are certified checks safe?

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Certified checks are considered one of the safest payment options available. They're more difficult to forge than personal checks and offer the added security of being guaranteed by the bank.

Can a certified check be fake?

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Certified checks can be fake, just as with any other type of check. Be sure to watch out for any signs of fraud and immediately report any suspicious checks to your bank.

About author

I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I began my career as a data operator with a large fintech firm. This position proved invaluable for learning how banks and other financial institutions operate. Daily correspondence with banking experts gave me insight into the systems and policies that power the economy. When I got the chance to translate my experience into words, I gladly joined the smart, enthusiastic Fortunly team.

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