What Is a Certified Bank Check?

Learn what certified bank checks are and how to get them when you need them.

If you’re making a large transaction, a certified bank check can be the best option. A certified check is a personal check that has been guaranteed by a bank to have sufficient funds available to cover the check. This guarantee ensures the check will not bounce.

Understanding the benefits of certified bank checks can help you make your payments safely or get paid without having a check bounce. Here are some tips on how to get a certified check, when to use one and how to avoid check fraud.

What Is a Bank-Certified Check?

Unlike a regular personal check that you write yourself, with a certified check the bank guarantees that the amount is available and that the signature on the check is valid. There’s no limit on the amount a certified check can be written for — unlike money orders — as long as there are sufficient funds in your account to cover the check.

Learn More: What’s the Difference Between a Money Order and a Certified Check?

When to Use a Certified Bank Check

Certified checks are most commonly used when you are dealing with an unfamiliar party and the transaction amount is large. Following are examples of when it’s a good idea to use a certified bank check:

  • If you are buying a home, a certified check is one way to pay the amount due at closing so the seller knows you have the money.
  • A certified check might be needed to buy a car from a private seller.
  • A landlord could require rental payments via certified bank check.

How to Obtain a Certified Check

Even if you’ve never used a certified check before, getting one is a straightforward process. First, contact the bank to confirm it does offer this kind of check. Then, follow these steps to obtain a bank-certified check:

  1. Verify you have the necessary funds in your account.
  2. Visit a local branch and ask the teller for help with a certified check. Don’t fill out your check ahead of time because the bank is certifying that you have the funds in your account, and also that your signature is authentic.
  3. Provide any other information required by your bank, such as your account information and a photo ID.
  4. Pay the bank fee for the certification. The price for a certified check varies by bank. For example, Truliant Federal Credit Union charges just $2 per certified check, Santander Bank charges $15 per certified check and TCF Bank charges $25 each.
  5. Keep the receipt from the bank as proof of payment.

When Are Certified Check Funds Available?

The first $5,000 of certified check funds must be made available to you by the next day if the deposit is made in person. If the certified check is for more than $5,000, the remainder must be made available within what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau refers to as a “reasonable time.” If you deposit the certified check via ATM, the bank has until the second business day to make the money available.

Find Out: This Is How Long It Takes for a Check to Clear at Your Bank

Beware of Fraud

Certified checks prevent someone from writing a check that their bank account funds cannot cover. However, certified checks can still be forged. Scammers can forge the bank’s certification, and in that case, the check could bounce and you could still be out of money. When possible, if you receive a certified check for payment you should contact the issuing bank and verify the check, account and funds are legitimate.

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