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Cashier’s Checks and Money Orders

My lease is up at the end of the month, and it’s time to find a new place. I’ve been searching for the perfect apartment, and last week, I finally submitted an application for a new place.

They required two checks: a $45 application fee along with a $300 deposit, to be cashed if and when I sign the lease. No problem, right?

Well…you know how I always talk about using ING and SmartyPig as my primary banks? Well, with ING, you don’t have any checks. I can send them online, but I can’t write one and take it with me. My 3 courtesy Bank of America checks ran out long ago, so I was left check-less.

What did I do?

I headed over to the bank and got two cashier’s check to take with me. $14. Damn, but I was in tough spot and didn’t have much of an option. I could have run over to the post office and gotten a money order, but I had no idea what that was or how much it would cost. Plus, I was on a tight schedule and couldn’t risk it.

But what is exactly is a cashier’s check? Let’s dig in.

A cashier’s check is issued by a bank. A customer pays the face value to the bank when it is issued, and in return, the bank writes a check for you. The positive is that the money is guaranteed, because you pay the amount on the check when it is issued. On the other hand, you need to have the funds in your account at the time it’s issued. With personal checks, you can issue a check and the funds aren’t withdrawn

A money order would have been my other option. A money order is similar to a cashier’s check in that the funds are prepaid, and it is more trusted than a personal check because the funds are guaranteed. However, the downside is that the limit on money orders is $1,000. The post office charges $1.10 for a money order under $500, and $1.50 for a money order greater than $500 up to $1,000.

It seems pretty clear that given a choice, a money order is the way to go when you’re out of checks. Next time, I’ll know where to go! And I’ll save a bunch of money too. Knowledge is power!



  1. Money orders are definitely a less expensive option. Many years ago (in my financial oblivion days), I was late on my rent a couple of times and the building I was living in would only take cashier’s checks or money orders from me. It was a pain withdrawing the cash, then carrying the large rent amount to a 7-11 for a money order. Often times I just purchased a cashier’s check at the bank for fear of getting mugged on the way to 7-11. It was an expensive mistake that I never repeated!

  2. This is a good think to keep in mind since online banks are becoming even more popular!

  3. It might be time for you to think about opening an account in a local credit union for such emergencies. The credit union I belong to is basically fee-free, even the checks are free. I have a house and 3 kids that always need something – I can’t imagine not having access to paper checks.

  4. sounds like if you had 10 extra minutes you could have saved your self about $12.50. Timing is everything. You make some great points, thanks for the knowledge.

  5. i think another money weakness of mine is that i always look for the most convenient stress free option and sometimes end up loosing cash with it. Like for instance i would have used an online bank over a money order because the online thing is much much easier. Convenience is bleeding us dry

  6. I agree with everyday tips, it makes sense to have a smaller checking account with access to free checks at any time. You never know when you are going to need it. Granted I have way too many checks then I know what to do hidden away from when I first opened my checking account…wish there was so happy medium…

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