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What is a certified check?

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A certified check offers extra protection to the recipient when chasing a check. They come with a guarantee from the writer’s bank that there is enough money in their account to cover the costs. This means the certified check will not bounce when you deposit it, ensuring you get paid your money.

When you deposit checks, especially those from people or businesses you aren’t familiar with, it can be a worry that the check might bounce, or that the bank details aren’t real. With a certified check, both the bank details and the money have been checked by a banker.

How certified checks work

A certified check is written at the bank, in person. This way, the banker can check that all the details are correct and the writer has enough money in their account to cover the deposit.

The banker will usually sign the check to confirm its validity. Once it has been written and signed, a certified check must be deposited within a set time period to still be guaranteed. The deposit period is usually 60 to 90 days, depending on the bank.

Certified checks are normally used for larger purchases such as buying a car, or putting a deposit down on a house.

Where to get a certified check

You can get a certified check at a bank. However, not all banks offer them as a service. To apply for a certified check, you’ll need a bank account and identification. You’ll also need enough money in your account to cover the sum you want on the check.

Some banks will charge a small fee for a certified check. If you don’t have a bank account or your bank doesn’t offer certified checks, you might want to consider some other options. These options could include:

  • Cashier check
  • Money Order

Certified checks vs cashier checks

Not all banks offer certified checks, and in some cases a cashier check may be a better choice.

With a cashier check, you pay the bank right away. The bank then issues the check and the money comes out of the bank’s account.

Certified checks

  • Funds are guaranteed by the bank.
  • Check details are verified in branch.
  • Funds stay in your account until the recipient cashes the check.

Cashier checks

  • Money is paid immediately.
  • The bank writes the check.
  • Check details are verified by the bank.

Only banks and credit unions issue cashier checks. You’ll need to provide proof of identity to apply and some banks charge a small service fee. However, neither cashier or certified checks have to be cashed at a bank. You can do this through credit unions, the US Post Office or third-party services.

Are certified checks safe?

Certified checks are mostly safe as they are stamped and guaranteed by the bank. However, some scammers and fraudsters still target certified checks, so it’s best to exercise caution.

Some scammers will send fake certified checks, often with a replica bank logo, stamp and details.

These types of scams can more commonly occur when buying online merchandise or larger items. If you’re selling items online, it’s best to be sure how you want to receive payments or consider alternatives if you can – online payments or money transfers could be a good option.

Fake certified checks and scams

Unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters are always looking for new ways to take advantage of people. Certified checks can be faked and it’s good to remain vigilant and double check with a bank before cashing a check you have received from someone you don’t know.

New scams can be developed anytime, but some of the more common forms of certified check fraud include:

  • Fake checks when buying online – sometimes a scammer might agree to buy an item you are selling online. They may send you a fake check, which is refused by the bank when you attempt to cash it. By the time you have found out the check is fake, the scammer has taken your sold item.
  • Fake employment check – some scammers will advertise fake jobs. A scammer may offer you the job along with a fake check to pay for equipment or training. In some cases, they may ask you to perform a task, such as wiring the certified check to another bank account. You may have to make the transfer from your own account first, only to find out that the certified check is fake and the money you have transferred has already gone.

You can protect yourself by verifying your check or considering alternative forms of payment, such as a money order.

How to tell if a certified check is real

You can check the validity of a certified check. You could research the bank details on the check yourself. Some of the things you could do include:

  1. Check that the phone number and address on the certified check match with the details on the bank’s website.
  2. Meet the buyer in person at the bank, if the sale is local. Only meet in a public place.
  3. Get the check verified with a bank before sending any items or attempting to cash the check.

Certified checks if you don’t have a bank account

You cannot get a certified check without a checking account. You’ll also only be able to apply with the bank you are a customer of.

You can cash a certified check you’ve received without a bank account. Though you will need to provide proof of identification, such as:

  • Driver’s License
  • S. Passport
  • State-issued ID

Where to cash a cashier’s check

Along with a bank, you can cash your certified or cashier’s check at several other locations.

These include:

  • Check-cashing stores – these usually charge a large fee for handling checks and aren’t always the best option.
  • Grocery stores and retailers – several grocery stores will offer financial services, including check cashing. You can find Money Services within the Kroger Family of Stores.

Grocery stores are usually the best option for cashing checks, even when you don’t have a bank account. Money Services within the Kroger Family of Stores have convenient locations throughout the country and offer a range of money services and check cashing facilities.

You can even cash checks or make money transfers without a bank account. Just bring along ID and your checks or money (if making a money transfer). Service is quick and much more affordable than using regular check-cashing stores. Experienced staff are on hand to assist you and offer advice where needed. Most grocery stores will handle much larger checks than check-cashing stores too.

You can find Money Services within the Kroger Family of Stores located in stores throughout the country.

Find your local store to start sending money today.

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