What is a Certified Check: How & Where to Get a Certified Check

We’ve compiled all the information you need to learn how to turn a personal check in to a certified check. Read on to know what is a certified check and how to get one.

What is a Certified Check

A certified check is a personal check that the payer’s bank has certified to be legitimate and has earmarked the funds for the check. It’s a type of “official” payment. People often confuse certified checks with cashier’s checks. So, what’s the difference between a certified check and a cashier’s check?

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.

A cashier’s check is a check backed by the bank. The bank takes the funds from the person requesting the cashier’s check and holds it in escrow, a special account specifically used to cover the check amount. Then, the bank prints a check against the funds they are holding. Both certified checks and cashier’s checks are “official” checks and considered “guaranteed” funds.

Benefits of Using 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 protections than what’s 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. Legitimate certified checks are guaranteed funds, but if a scam artist has created a fraudulent check, forged the signature, and forged the certification marks then it is a forged or bad check, and you shouldn’t attempt to cash or deposit it. Read our article about check fraud for more information about check scams.

How & Where to Get a Certified Check

To get a certified check, inquire at your bank. Some banks offer cashier’s checks and some offer certified checks. It’s rare that a bank will offer both types and more banks are switching to cashier’s checks.

How to get a certified check:

  1. Verify that your bank offers certified checks
  2. Visit the local branch of your bank
  3. Inform the teller that you want a certified check and ask for any specific instructions
  4. Write the check in front of the teller
  5. Show your ID to the teller
  6. Wait as the teller verifies the funds and stamps or marks your check as certified
  7. Pay any fee that your bank charges for this service
  8. Keep your receipt until the check clears your account

Fees for a Certified Check

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.

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