May 21, 2024
This article explores the differences between cashier's check and money order. It covers their definitions, obtaining and filling them out, how banks issue them, fees, security features, limitations, and advantages and disadvantages. It also compares their similarities and differences and discusses which payment method is better in certain situations. It aims to inform readers of the nuances and complexities of these payment methods and help them make better financial decisions.


When it comes to making payments, there are various options available, from cash and credit cards to checks and electronic transfers. However, two lesser-known payment methods are cashier’s checks and money orders. While they may seem similar, they have distinct differences that everyone should be aware of, especially if they want to avoid misunderstandings, mistakes, and fraud. This article aims to explore and explain the differences between cashier’s check and money order, from their definitions to their pros and cons, as well as provide guidelines on how to use them effectively and safely.

Cashier’s Check vs. Money Order: Knowing the Differences

Let’s start with the basic definitions and characteristics of each payment method.

A cashier’s check is a form of guaranteed payment that is backed by a bank. It is issued to a specific payee and drawn on the bank’s own funds, not on the account holder’s funds, which means that the bank assumes the responsibility for the payment. A cashier’s check typically has a higher value and is used for larger transactions, such as buying a car, paying for a rental property, or sending money overseas. It usually requires a fee, which may vary depending on the bank’s policies.

A money order, on the other hand, is also a guaranteed payment, but it is issued by a third-party entity, such as a post office or a convenience store, rather than a bank. It is similar to a check, but it is prepaid, meaning that the payer pays for it upfront and sends it to the payee. A money order is usually cheaper than a cashier’s check and is used for smaller transactions, such as paying rent, bills, or sending money to someone who doesn’t have a bank account or who lives far away.

The main differences between cashier’s check and money order are:

  • The issuer: bank vs. third-party entity
  • The payer: bank vs. individual
  • The payment: guaranteed vs. prepaid
  • The value: high vs. low
  • The fees: variable vs. fixed

To illustrate these differences, let’s take a hypothetical scenario: John wants to buy a used car from Mary, and Mary lives in another state. John wants to make sure that he pays Mary securely and that he gets the car title in return. Here are his options:

  • John can use a cashier’s check: he goes to his bank, requests a cashier’s check made payable to Mary, pays the bank a fee of $10, and gives the check to Mary, who can deposit or cash it immediately. The check is guaranteed by the bank, which means that John’s account is debited, and Mary receives the full amount.
  • John can use a money order: he goes to his local post office, buys a money order made payable to Mary, pays the post office a fee of $1, and sends the money order to Mary by mail. Mary receives the money order, takes it to her bank, and deposits or cashes it later. The money order is prepaid, which means that John already paid for it with cash or a debit card, and that Mary has to wait until she receives it to get the money.

As you can see, both payment methods have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation. Let’s explore each of them in more detail.

A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Cashier’s Check and Money Order

If you are new to these payment methods, or if you want to refresh your memory, here are some step-by-step instructions on how to obtain and fill out a cashier’s check and a money order.

How to obtain a cashier’s check

  1. Go to your bank or credit union and ask for a cashier’s check.
  2. Tell the bank representative the payee’s name and the amount you want the check to be for.
  3. Show your ID and provide your account information or the money to cover the check and the fee.
  4. Sign the check in front of the bank representative.
  5. Give the check to the payee, who can deposit or cash it.
  6. Keep the receipt and/or a copy of the check for your records.

How to obtain a money order

  1. Go to a post office, a convenience store, a grocery store, or a bank that offers money orders.
  2. Ask for a money order, and specify the payee’s name and the amount you want the money order to be for.
  3. Show your ID and pay for the money order in cash, with a debit card, or with a traveler’s check.
  4. Sign the money order in the designated area, but do not fill in the payee’s name.
  5. Keep the stub or receipt that comes with the money order for your records.
  6. Mail the money order to the payee, or give it to them in person.

Process of filling out a cashier’s check and a money order

Both cashier’s checks and money orders require you to fill in certain information to make sure that they are valid and that they go to the right recipient. Here is how to do it:

  • For a cashier’s check:
    • Write the payee’s full name on the “pay to the order of” line.
    • Write the amount in numbers on the “dollars” line.
    • Write the amount in words on the “payable” line.
    • Sign the check in the designated area on the bottom right corner.
  • For a money order:
    • Write the payee’s full name in the “pay to” or “payee” section.
    • Write your full name and address in the “purchaser” or “sender” section.
    • Write the amount in numbers in the “amount” section.
    • Sign the money order in the “purchaser’s signature” or “sender’s signature” section.
    • Keep the stub or receipt for your records.

Make sure to check the spelling of the payee’s name and the accuracy of the amount, since mistakes can delay or cancel the payment. If you have any doubts or questions, ask the bank or the third-party entity for assistance.

Decoding the Banking Basics: Cashier’s Check and Money Order

Now that you know how to obtain and fill out a cashier’s check or a money order, let’s dive into the behind-the-scenes world of banking and finance and see how they handle these payment methods.

Role of banks in issuing cashier’s checks and money orders

As mentioned earlier, banks are the main issuers of cashier’s checks, and they typically charge a fee for the service. The reason why banks issue cashier’s checks is to ensure that the payment is valid, since the bank is the one who pays it, not the account holder. Therefore, banks usually ask for several forms of identification and verification, such as your account balance, your credit history, your location, and the recipient’s identity and credibility. Banks also have strict policies and procedures for issuing cashier’s checks, such as limits on the amount, restrictions on the purpose, and deadlines for processing.

Money orders, on the other hand, are issued by various entities, such as post offices, convenience stores, grocery stores, or banks, depending on the laws and regulations of each state or country. Each entity may have its own policies and fees for issuing money orders, but they all have to follow certain rules to ensure the safety and efficiency of the payment. For example, they have to verify the payer’s identity, keep a record of the transaction, and track the delivery of the money order.

Fees associated with cashier’s checks and money orders

Another aspect that distinguishes cashier’s checks and money orders is the fees. While both payment methods charge a fee, the amount and the structure of the fee may vary.

A cashier’s check fee is usually a flat rate, meaning that you pay the same amount regardless of the value of the check. For instance, if your bank charges a $10 fee for a cashier’s check, you pay $10 whether the check is for $100 or $10,000. Some banks may waive the fee if you have a premium account or if you are a certain type of customer, such as a senior citizen or a military member.

A money order fee, on the other hand, is usually a percentage of the amount, meaning that you pay more if the money order is for a higher value. For instance, if your convenience store charges a 1% fee for a money order, you pay $1 for a money order worth $100, but $10 for a money order worth $1,000. Some third-party entities may also have a minimum or maximum limit on the amount of money order you can buy, or charge additional fees for expedited delivery or customer service.

Security features of cashier’s checks and money orders

Because cashier’s checks and money orders are often used as a form of payment for large or remote transactions, they are susceptible to fraud and scams. Therefore, banks and third-party entities have added several security features to their cashier’s checks and money orders to prevent and detect counterfeiting and theft.

Some common security features of a cashier’s check are:

  • The bank’s logo and contact information
  • The account holder’s name and signature
  • The watermark or the security thread
  • The serial number or the tracking code

Some common security features of a money order are:

  • The company’s logo and contact information
  • The payee’s name and address
  • The issuer’s signature and the authorized stamp
  • The security paper or the fluorescent ink

When you receive a cashier’s check or a money order, make sure to examine it closely and compare it to the original sample or the issuer’s website to verify its authenticity and legitimacy. If you suspect that the payment is fake or stolen, contact the issuer immediately and report it to the authorities.

What to do if a cashier’s check or money order is lost or stolen

If you lose your cashier’s check or money order, or if it gets stolen or damaged, you may still be able to recover your funds or cancel the payment, but you need to act quickly and follow the right procedures.

If you lose your cashier’s check, you may have to pay a stop payment fee, which means that the bank cancels the check and issues a new one. To do so, you need to call or visit your bank, provide them with the check number, the amount, and the payee’s name, and fill out a stop payment request form.

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