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What is a Certified Check? Definition, Overview and How to Get One

When dealing with money, you want to be sure you are extra safe. That extra level of assurance that the check is valid and would not bounce gives you a different feeling of confidence.

Whether you want to make or receive a secure payment, it’s hard to know the best way to do so.

You could go the cash route, but that could go in different bad ways you might not even have anticipated.

A personal check would go a long way to solving most of your money problems, and when it’s a certified check, you can rest assured the money would not bounce. It also tells both the buyer and the seller what they would get from the deal.

This article enlightens you about certified checks. It is all you need to know. 

What is a Certified Check?

A certified check can be seen as a personal check, guaranteed by the bank of the person giving you the check. The bank verifies the account holder’s signature and that they have enough money to pay, then sets aside the check amount for when it’s cashed or deposited.

A certified check is a type of personal check that is guaranteed by prepaid funds set aside by the issuing bank.

By certifying the check, the bank verifies that the account it’s written from has enough money to cover the cost of the check and prevents that money from being used for any other purpose.

This provides for you security and confidence, knowing that the check you are holding in your hands would not bounce because the bank has certified there is money in the account. 

A certified check is a personal check that the bank has certified and it’s drawn on personal funds. The certification process physically marks the check indicating it is now a certified check and earmarks the funds for that check.

Most banks won’t release those funds for any other reason.

You Should Check Out: What Is Soft Credit Check? Overview And How It Works

When to Use Certified Checks

A certified check is a personal check that the bank has certified and it’s drawn on personal funds.

The certification process physically marks the check indicating it is now a certified check and earmarks the funds for that check.

Most banks won’t release those funds for any other reason. Consider using a certified check.

However, it is mostly used when there is trust issues between the recipient and the account holder. Unlike a personal check that poses some risks, especially in situations where it is unsure whether the buyer can actually make the purchase, a certified check can bring peace of mind to both parties, when they both want to make sure the funds are safe and secure.

Other times, certified checks are used in lieu of cash purchases. Once they’re certified, they’re good to go. So instead of handing over or mailing wads of cash, you can send a certified check.

This comes in handy when you need funds more immediately since you do not have to wait for the check to clear necessarily.

A certified check can be used when the person you’re paying requires a form of guaranteed payment. Some examples of transactions that might need a certified check are-

  • Mortgage closing fees
  • Security deposits for rental property
  • Car purchases
  • Purchases of items that cost more than $1,000
  • Purchases from buyers you don’t know well

Basically, a certified check is used when both parties want to ensure that there is actually money in the account for the purpose of the payment being sought. 

Don’t Fail to Read: Top 15 No Credit Check Personal Loans of 2022

How to Get a Certified Check?

In most states, it is not difficult at all to get a certified check. You would mostly be required to visit you bank branch, then meet the cashier to get a certified check.

In other situations, you may be required to just order for your certified check over the phone. When you order online, mostly, the check would arrive within 10 days of the order.

If you are interested in getting a certified check, there is a step by step guide you must follow to see it through.

The steps you need to take are:

Before you continue, read this: Cashier’s Check vs Certified Check: Definitions, Overview, and Differences.

Step 1

Prepare the cash needed to fund the check. Make sure you have enough money in your checking account to cover it.

Step 2

Collect the information needed for the check. Your bank can give you specific instructions for getting a certified check. The information you could need are- 

  • Your account number
  • The recipient’s name
  • Funds to cover the amount of the check and the fee
  • A form of ID, such as a driver’s license or passport

Step 3

Write the check. The bank may require you to write a personal check in front of a teller before certifying it. In writing a check, you would be required to

  • Write who the check is for
  • Write the payment amount in numbers
  • Date the check at the top right-hand corner
  • Write the payment amount in words
  • Write a memo
  • Sign the check with your signature which the bank recognizes. 

Step 4

Present the check to a teller. The teller will then verify the funds and mark the check as certified.

Step 5

Keep the receipt for your records. Retain it until the check clears your account. If the check is lost or stolen, you have a record of the transaction.

Check Also: How To Use Abundance Checks To Manifest Your Money In 2022

Why Should You Use a Certified Check?

A certified check is useful when purchasing pricey items. If someone is buying an expensive appliance or paying for home improvements, it’s impractical and dangerous to carry that amount of cash on you.

It’s more practical and safer to write a check, but the payee may want more protection than what is provided by a normal personal check.

With a certified check, the recipient knows that the bank has verified the check, signature, and availability of funds. It’s a source of guaranteed funds.

The process of certifying a check verifies:

  • The person writing the check has the authority to write checks on that account
  • The check, itself, is legitimate and hasn’t been washed or chemically treated
  • The signature is a legitimate signature
  • The account is active and in good standing
  • The funds are available and will be earmarked for that check for a certain amount of time

Certified checks can still be fraudulent, though. If a scam artist has created a fraudulent check, forged the signature, and certification marks, then it is a forged or bad check, and you shouldn’t attempt to cash or deposit it. 

Read Also: How Long Are Personal Checks Good For?

Reasons to Go for Certified Check

There are several reasons you should consider using a certified check.

Some of these reasons are:

  • Sometimes, especially with larger transactions, it can be impractical for buyers to pay with cash, and sellers might be reluctant to accept a personal check, in case it bounces.
  • Certified checks offer benefits for buyers and sellers. 
  • Carrying large sums of cash can be impractical and risky. Accepting personal checks as payment can be problematic because the receiver doesn’t know for sure whether the check will clear. Certified checks ensure the doubt is eliminated. 
  • Certified checks are convenient, secure and as good as cash. Before issuing a certified check, the bank verifies that the funds are available and reserves them until the check is cashed. 
  • The certified checks are usually good for 60 to 90 days, giving everyone enough time to cash it.
  • A certified check can reduce risks for everyone in such a transaction.

How to Guard Against Possible Fraud

Like any other form of payment, certified checks are vulnerable to fraud, and it’s your responsibility to make sure the check you receive is legitimate and not counterfeit. The red flags are quite easy to see.

With technology, counterfeiters can easily copy bank logos and branding off the internet. Banking security experts recommend that you call the bank immediately upon receiving a certified check to verify it.

Don’t call the number printed on the check, though; it could be phony, too.

How to Protect Against Certified Check Fraud

Any time you receive a certified check for payment, you should inspect it for signs of fraud and verify it with the issuing bank.

Although the presence of one red flag doesn’t necessarily mean a check is fraudulent, the more signs you see, the more likely you’ve received a bad check.

Some of the features of a fraudulent certified check are:

  • The certified check would usually miss security features like watermarks, security threads and color-changing ink.
  • The certified check would usually miss the payer’s or the bank’s address.
  • The payer’s or bank’s name could also be misspelled.
  • The certified check could also have written for more than the required amount of money.
  • The routing number for the bank is usually incorrect. You can look up routing numbers for banks online.

If you think you just received a fake check, do not deposit it into your account.

First, call the issuing bank then look up the phone number on the bank’s official website instead of using the number printed on the check.

A scammer will likely print a false number on a fraudulent check. Ask the bank representative to verify the check.

If you are the victim of a certified check scam, you could:

  • Contact your bank and the bank that supposedly issued the check.
  • Report the situation to the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and your state’s attorney general.

How Much Does a Certified Check Cost?

There are fees associated with certified checks. Like other types of fees, the fee can vary widely from bank to bank. You can find this information in the bank’s fee schedule or ask a customer service agent.

Each bank sets its own fees for certified checks. Some banks, such as Citi, include complimentary official checks as a perk for certain accounts.

Here are the current fees charged by select banks:

  • Citi: $10
  • Discover: $0
  • SunTrust: $8-$15
  • TD Bank: $8

Since certified checks are paid out of your own bank account, make sure you have enough to cover the certified check’s amount. If not, make a deposit or transfer over funds before writing the check.

You would not have access to this money after the bank certifies the check.


In the day and age of increasing online and electronic financial products, writing a check may seem old-fashioned. But when it comes to making secure payments, writing that check may be the better way to go.

Certified checks give peace of mind to both the recipient and the sender, since both parties want to ensure the payment goes through.

With a bank’s stamp of approval, a certified check is a great way to guarantee a successful transaction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Certified checks are paid directly out of the customer’s account, but cashier’s checks are paid from the bank’s account after it withdraws the cash from the customer’s account.

The funds from certified checks and cashier’s checks are usually available the next business day after the deposit is made.

The fee for a certified check is often lower than that of a cashier’s check. Fees for cashier’s checks can vary from bank to bank, but be prepared to pay between $10 and $20 for the service.

Verify that your bank offers certified checks, visit the local branch of your bank, inform the teller that you want a certified check and ask for any specific instructions, write the check in front of the teller, show your ID to the teller.

A cashier’s check is a check drawn from the bank’s own funds, not yours, and signed by a cashier or teller. Unlike a regular check, the bank, not the check writer, guarantees payment of a cashier’s check. A cashier’s check can also be called an official check.

There’s often no limit on a cashier’s check, provided you have the money for it. Some banks do impose a maximum amount if the check is ordered online. This limit can range from $2,500 to $250,000 per check or more.




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