Cashier’s Check vs. Money Order
If you need guaranteed funds to pay for a transaction, cashier’s checks and money orders are two options that may be available to you. Even though the two terms often get used interchangeably, these payment methods are actually quite different. Let’s take a closer look at cashier’s checks and money orders so you can choose the right option for your situation.
What is a cashier’s check?
A cashier’s check is an official check issued by a bank or credit union. If you opt for a cashier’s check, a representative will need to sign it. This is because the bank or credit union will take funds directly from your checking or savings account and place the cash in its own account.
How to get a cashier’s check
You can get a cashier’s check at a bank or credit union, or online. Some banks or credit unions may allow you to take out a cashier’s check even without having an account. In that case, you should bring cash to cover the value of the cashier’s check as well as any fees.
Benefits of a cashier’s check
There are a few benefits of using cashier’s checks as your payment method. A cashier’s check is one of the safest ways to make a large payment, so it may be useful if you need to make a security deposit or down payment. A cashier’s check is also much faster than a personal check because it allows the funds to be available as soon as the next day.
What is a money order?
A money order is a paper document that looks like a check and can be used as a form of payment. To purchase a money order, you’ll prepay the amount printed on its face with cash or another type of guaranteed funds. Many stores and other types of organizations like Advance America offer money orders.
How to get a money order
There are more options for getting a money order over a cashier’s check. Banks and credit unions offer money orders, but you can also get them at certain lenders, including Advance America, as well as some retail stores or even your local U.S. post office.
Benefits of a money order
Just like cashier’s checks, money orders come with a few notable benefits. Since you’ll have to specify the recipient, and you both must sign it for validity, theft is unlikely to occur. You'll also receive a tracking number that you can use to ensure the right person received the money order.
When should I use a cashier’s check vs. money order?
Often, whether you use a cashier’s check vs a money order depends on your needs. For large transactions, such as a down payment or security deposit, you may be required to use a cashier’s check for security reasons.
When a cashier’s check isn’t required, a money order is often more convenient. Money orders tend to have lower fees than cashier’s checks and are available at more locations. It also may be easier to replace a lost or stolen money order, while a lost cashier’s check can require buying an indemnity bond as well as up to 90 days to be replaced. However, money orders may have a low issuing limit, so a payment above $1,000 or so may require multiple money orders.
Which is easier to buy: a cashier’s check or money order?
It is usually easier to buy a money order rather than a cashier’s check. Money orders are available from banks and credit unions as well as many retail stores and lenders, including Advance America. Cashier’s checks, on the other hand, are only available at a bank or credit union. Money orders also tend to have lower fees, although some banks may waive fees for cashier’s checks if you have an account.
Which is better: a cashier’s check or money order?
Cashier’s checks can offer a high level of security when moving a large amount of money. They also offer access to funds as soon as the next day. For those reasons, cashier’s checks are often better for the payee in a transaction.
On the other hand, money orders may be better for the payer in many transactions, as they are easier to replace when lost or stolen and charge lower fees per money order.
Cashier’s checks and money orders also both have limits on their maximum value, however money orders will typically have lower limits than cashier’s checks. That’s another reason cashier’s checks are preferred for large transfers.
Deciding whether cashier’s checks or money orders are better will ultimately depend on the amount of money you’re looking to move and what options are available to you. Compare what your local banks, credit unions and lenders offer as options for cashier’s checks and money orders.
Which costs less: a money order or cashier’s check?
Generally, money orders tend to be cheaper than cashier’s checks, with fees ranging from just a few dollars to more than $10. You may be able to find free money orders in certain locations, such as banks or post offices. On the other hand, cashier’s checks can come with higher fees—generally between $10 and $20.
However, if you need your funds verified quickly, a cashier’s check may be worth the extra cost as they clear relatively fast. Keep in mind that you can send more money with a cashier's check. Ultimately, before committing to either payment method, compare potential fees so you can choose the one that offers the most economical solution for your needs.
How long are money orders and cashier’s checks good for?
Technically, money orders and cashier's checks do not have an expiration date. This means you can hold onto them until you need them.
However, you should check with your bank or other financial institution to confirm whether there is an expiration date on the payment instrument, as this can vary depending on where it was issued. Additionally, some banks may charge a fee if you fail to use your money order or cashier's check within a certain period. Always double-check to ensure you won't incur any charges if you plan on holding onto your cashier’s check or money order for an extended time.
Differences between a cashier’s check and a money order
Up to $1,000
Banks and credit unions
Grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, convenience stores, etc.
$10 or more
As low as $1
Guaranteed by the bank or credit union
Less secure than cashier’s checks
The maximum dollar limit is one of the major differences between money orders vs. cashier’s checks. Limits for money orders usually cap out at $1,000. Cashier’s checks, on the other hand, are available for larger amounts, making them ideal if you’d like to put money down on a car or house.
Money orders are typically available at many places including grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, and convenience stores. Advance America has money orders that you can purchase at a location near you. Cashier’s checks, however, can only be found at banks or credit unions.
While both options are affordable, money orders tend to have lower fees than cashier's checks. You may be able to buy them for a couple of bucks or even as low as $1. Cashier’s checks cost an average of $10.
Since cashier’s checks are drawn against and guaranteed by a bank or credit union, they tend to be more credible than money orders. Some perceive money orders to be riskier since they are available at such a wide variety of places. However, most money orders are safe as long as you purchase them from a reputable organization.
Alternatives to cashier’s checks and money orders
A cashier's check or money order allows you to send money without worrying about its interception. However, there are also several alternatives you can consider, including:
Credit card payment
Credit cards are a convenient and safe way to make payments, and most major credit cards are accepted worldwide. You can use credit cards to make purchases online, over the phone, or in person. You will typically be charged a small fee for the transaction when you use a credit card.
Another alternative to a cashier’s check or money order is to write a personal check. You can use personal checks to make purchases both online and in-person. But it’s important to note that not all businesses accept personal checks as payment.
Wire transfers are a quick and easy way you can send money electronically from one bank account to another. You can make wire transfers online or through a bank branch, and they typically take one to two business days to process.
Cash is the most common form of accepted payment by most businesses. Cash is also the most accessible form of payment, as it does not require a bank account.
How to get help purchasing a money order or cashier’s check
While you have to go to a bank or credit union for a cashier’s check, you can get a money order from an Advance America location. We offer money orders that you can purchase in-store at any of our locations near you. Make sure to bring cash to cover the money order transfer amount and any additional fees, as cash is the only payment method accepted. You may also use a cashier’s check as collateral for some of our loan products.