Cashier’s Check vs. Money Order: Here’s the Difference

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Credit card skimmers, check-cashing scams and several other dangers threaten people’s checking accounts. Many individuals and businesses turn to cashier’s checks and money orders as safer forms of payment.

The major difference between a cashier’s check and a money order is found in the limits, availability and costs of each form of payment. While money orders tend to be cheaper and more accessible, generally costing up to $5 and not requiring a bank account, they typically have a $1,000 limit. Cashier’s checks tend to be more expensive, typically costing at least $10 and requiring a bank account, but do not have limits on dollar amounts. Read on to understand which payment option is best for you.

What Is the Difference Between a Cashier’s Check and a Money Order?

The major difference between a cashier’s check and a money order is cost and where you can purchase them. A money order costs less than a cashier’s check. You can buy money orders at banks and other places, but cashier’s checks must be obtained using an account at a financial institution, bank or credit union.

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A money order is basically a prepaid check, meaning the funds are guaranteed. You can purchase a money order at post offices, banks, retailers, grocery stores and check-cashing outlets or MoneyGram locations, to name a few options. The funds are typically limited to $1,000. They’re much cheaper than cashier’s checks. For example, you can buy a money order at Walmart for a maximum fee of $1.

A cashier’s check is not unlike a money order but is issued by a bank and requires a bank account. Similar to a money order, you prepay the funds to guarantee the cashier’s check. The bank stands behind the official check, which carries more clout than a store-bought money order. For this reason, cashier’s checks are considered the more credible form of payment of the two because they are issued by a financial institution, versus a money order issued at a grocery store or check-cashing business. There are no amount limits.

The following table provides a quick comparison between the two payment types so you can understand the other differences:

Earn Perks With A New Checking Account
Cashier’s Check Money Order
Cost Typically $10 and up Typically up to $5
Requirements To Purchase Bank account at a financial institution to order the check No bank account required if purchasing through a retailer
Limit of Check Amount No limit Typically up to $1,000
Availability Financial institutions – Check-cashing locations
– Certain banks
– Convenience stores
– Money transfer services
Gas stations 
– Grocery stores 
– Drugstores
– Post offices 
– Retailers
When To Use – For payments over $1,000
– Situations requiring more security
– If you don’t have a checking account
– For mailed payments
– To prevent bounced checks
– To avoid using personal checks
– To send money overseas
Where Accepted – Banks
– Businesses
– Individuals
– Banks
– Businesses
– Individuals
What Else You Should Know Recipient’s name filled out by the bank so cashier’s check is cashed only by that person “Pay to” line blank — must be filled in or anyone can cash it

When Should I Use a Cashier’s Check vs. a Money Order?

Cashiers’ checks and money orders might seem interchangeable, but depending on the situation, one form of payment is more useful than the other.

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It’s best to use a money order when:

On the other hand, a cashier’s check is a better option when:

For example, it could be a good idea to send a money order to pay for something you’re purchasing by mail from a stranger, whereas using a cashier’s check is a handy option when you need to make a security deposit on an apartment.

Although both cashier’s checks and money orders are generally accepted, that doesn’t mean that all businesses and individuals will accept them. For best results, verify that your desired form of payment will be accepted before you attempt to use it.

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Is a Cashier’s Check Safer Than a Money Order?

A cashier’s check is safer than a money order because it’s backed by the financial institution that issued it. A cashier’s check is filled out by the bank, so the funds can’t be cashed by anyone other than who it was issued to. Money orders, on the other hand, carry extra risk. The “pay to” line is blank. Forget to fill it out, and anyone can cash it.

When ordering a cashier’s check versus a money order, save the payment stub or receipt. You’ll need it to request a replacement or a refund if the check is lost or damaged.

Protecting Yourself From Money Order and Cashier’s Check Fraud

Both money orders and cashier’s checks can be forged, so it’s important to treat them with the same scrutiny as you would any other form of payment. Some common money order and check scams to watch out for include:

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Don’t accept checks from strangers. If you receive a cashier’s check or money order, check it carefully. Among the things to look for to detect signs of fraud or forgery are flimsy paper, lack of official stamps or seals, and typos or misspelled words. When in doubt, contact the financial institution or business that issued the check to verify if it’s legitimate before depositing it.

Alternatives to Cashier’s Checks and Money Orders

Although cashier’s checks and money orders serve a purpose, they’re not always convenient when you need to make a payment in a hurry. Here are some alternative payment methods worth considering: