What Is a Certified Check?

Read our Advertiser Disclosure.
Contributor, Benzinga
July 10, 2023

When you send or receive a check, you want to make sure the transaction goes through successfully. Business owners don’t want to worry about their checks bouncing, and employees want to feel confident the check will go through. Certified checks give recipients the verification that the payment will go through. Understanding how certified checks work, along with the pros and cons, will help you decide whether they are right for you.

When to Use a Certified Check

A certified check is optimal when you want the recipient to feel more confident about the payment going through. While certified checks aren’t as useful if you’re giving a few hundred dollars to a friend or colleague, they are more important for high-cost expenses, such as a down payment. The recipient will feel more comfortable doing business with you if you have a certified check.

How Does a Certified Check Work?

A certified check tells the recipient that the bank has reviewed the account holder’s funds and has determined the check is legitimate. In other words, this check will not bounce, and funds have been set aside to make this payment work. Some people refer to certified checks as “official checks,” which makes sellers feel more confident about receiving funds from the check.

Do Certified Checks Clear Immediately?

Certified checks do not clear immediately, but they clear faster than personal checks. The funds are already allocated for this specific check, and the bank issues these funds. Certified checks get cleared within one business day.

What Is the Maximum Amount for a Certified Check?

Each bank has its own limits on how much money you can offer with a certified check. Some banks let you put over $100,000 on a certified check, but you will have to reach out to a representative or visit the bank’s website to receive confirmation.

Is There Any Risk With a Certified Check?

Certified checks offer more security than personal checks, but it is still possible for the check to bounce. There is also the possibility of fraud with these checks. Some people may put “certified” on the check to create a false sense of security. 

Are Certified Checks Reported to the IRS?

Certified checks are not reported to the IRS, but the transactions may get reported, depending on the size and scope. You may have to use Form 8300 to report specific transactions. You do not report the certified check but must still report qualifying transactions.

How To Get a Certified Check

A certified check can increase a seller’s confidence in doing business with you. If you want to get a certified check for any reason, follow these steps.

Visit Your Bank

Visit a local branch or contact customer support to learn more about receiving a certified check. You can contact a bank where you hold an account and want to withdraw funds. If your bank does not offer certified checks, you will have to open a bank account with a financial institution that has certified checks available. 

Bring Identification and Account Information

You will have to provide identification to get a certified check. Your driver’s license, passport and account details will help you get a certified check. You will also need enough funds in your bank account to support the certified check’s amount.

Request a Certified Check

After driving to your local bank and bringing the necessary documents, the next step is to let a bank teller know of your request. Tell them you need a certified check, the amount to put on the check and the name of the payee.

Provide the Necessary Funds

Your bank account must have enough funds for the certified check. The funds will get set aside for the sole purpose of supporting the certified check. 

Verify Details

It’s a good idea to double-check the details before finalizing the transaction. The amount, payee and other details should be verified. You don’t want to walk away with a certified check only to realize there is a mistake. 

Receive the Certified Check

After reviewing the check and making sure everything is accurate, the final step is to receive the check. The teller will hand you a certified check that you can use for the transaction.

Benefits of Certified Checks

Are you wondering whether a certified check is right for you? These are some of the advantages of taking the extra steps to obtain a certified check.

Enhanced Security

A certified check has more security than a personal check. It is more difficult to create a fraudulent certified check.

Guaranteed Funds

Certified checks give sellers reassurance about doing business with you. The funds are guaranteed because the bank allocates money in your bank account specifically for this check.

Acceptance by Recipients

Recipients may be happier to do business with you versus someone who did not go through the hassle of obtaining a certified check. Recipients want to feel confident about the check going through successfully.

Faster Processing

The check can be cleared within one business day. Certified checks process faster than personal checks because funds have already been allocated.

Record of Payment

You have a record of a certified check payment and can refer to that record if there is a dispute.

Drawbacks of a Certified Check

Certified checks offer several benefits, but they are not for everyone. Keep these drawbacks in mind before embarking on the process.

Limited Acceptance

Not all sellers will accept checks. Some of them may be cautious of fraud and prefer to do business through another payment method.

Cost and Fees

Some banks give out free certified checks, but you may have to pay up to $20 at other financial institutions. It depends on your bank, and you may also have to maintain a minimum account balance or pay a maintenance fee. These costs can add up if you frequently use certified checks for purchases.

Time-Consuming Process

You have to gather the necessary documents, drive to your local bank and speak with a teller to get a certified check. The entire process can take quite some time, while the process only takes a few seconds if you use a personal check connected to the same bank account. Other payment methods, such as electronic payments, are more efficient than getting a certified check.

Getting a Certified Check

A certified check gives sellers more confidence that the payment will go through. It’s an act of good faith that can make you more attractive than other buyers. Certified checks take a bit of time to obtain, but going the extra mile can help you with a down payment, auto purchase or another large expense.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

What happens if a certified check is lost?

A

If a certified check is lost, you have to contact your bank. You must have an indemnity bond before the bank will give you another certified check.

Q

What exactly is a certified personal check?

A

A certified personal check is a check that the bank states you have sufficient funds to cover. It gives sellers an extra reason to do business with you.

Q

Can a bank put a hold on a certified check?

A

A bank can put a hold on a certified check.

About Marc Guberti

Marc Guberti is a personal finance writer passionate about helping people learn more about money management, investing and finance. He has more than 10 years of writing experience focused on finance and digital marketing. His work has been published in U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, InvestorPlace and other publications.