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What is a certified cheque?

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When was the last time you wrote a cheque? Do you still know how to write a cheque? And what’s a void cheque? If you were born after a certain year, you may have never even had a reason to use one. Although there has been an undeniable downtick in how much we rely on cheques for our day-to-day banking needs, there are still some important uses for both regular cheques and certified cheques.

If you are wondering what the difference is between a regular cheque and a certified cheque, you’ve come to the right place.

What is a certified cheque and how do they work?

Before we begin, let’s get one thing out of the way: this article is not about the regular cheques that you would find in your checkbook.

Unlike a normal cheque, which is written by a bank account holder as a promise of the existence of funds within a bank account, a certified cheque (certified check in US English) has been verified by a financial institution. This means that the bank has looked at the cheque issuer’s account and certified that the promised funds exist.

The clear benefit of a certified cheque is that it cancels out the possibility of a cheque bouncing, which means guaranteed payment for the payee. The payee can, in turn, be sure that they will not be left paying a pesky bank fee for trying to cash a bad cheque.

When you order a certified cheque, your bank will often, but not always (check with your bank), freeze the allocated funds in your account so that you do not accidentally spend them.

In order to signify that a cheque has been certified, a bank will usually add a signature or stamp. The bank teller who assists you will also sign off on the cheque themself — this is where the literal process of “certifying” the cheque happens.

What is a certified cheque used for?

Certified cheques are most often used for large purchases. When dealing with large transactions (say, over $1,000), a payee may request a certified cheque as payment. This protects them from the possibility of a cheque bouncing.

A certified cheque may also be used in an instance where another payment type is not available. For example, large transactions cannot usually be completed over e-transfer, and they certainly can’t always be completed with cash. A certified cheque is just as valuable as sending cash, just without the risk of losing paper money.

Another advantage of a certified cheque is that it provides an option for those who do not own personal cheques. Personal cheques come with their associated costs, and for many individuals who only use a handful of cheques per year, it’s just not worth it.

Although certified cheques do cost money, it’s still more economical than ordering a book of cheques if you are planning on doing minimal banking in this way.

How do I get a certified cheque?

To get a certified cheque, you will need to visit your bank or credit union in person. Once your issuing bank or credit union has verified that you have sufficient funds, they will be able to issue the certified cheque to you.

You will need to provide proof to the bank that you are the account holder, usually in the form of your debit card PIN, and a piece of government-issued ID.

Most banks charge a nominal fee for issuing a certified cheque. Call the bank before arriving if you do not want to be taken aback by any surprise charges, but the cost is usually around $10 to $20.

You can order a certified cheque from any bank branch or credit union branch — it doesn’t have to be your home branch (the branch you opened your bank account at).

A certified cheque should not be confused with a cashier’s check (or cashier’s cheque) or money order. While a certified cheque simply places a hold on funds, a money order involves the prepayment of funds that are then available to the payee on demand. A cashier’s cheque, on the other hand, is drawn against the bank’s funds instead of the funds of your own personal bank account. You would have to transfer funds from your personal account into the bank’s account in order to get a cashier’s cheque.

What is the difference between a certified cheque and a personal cheque?

As we touched upon earlier, a certified cheque and a traditional cheque are not the same. The main difference is that a bank guarantees that a certified cheque will clear, while it does not guarantee that a personal cheque will.

Certified cheques must be filled out in person at banks or credit unions, while a personal cheque can be issued from any place that it can be written.

In a nutshell, the differences between a certified cheque and a personal cheque are:

  • A certified cheque is guaranteed funds; a personal cheque is not.
  • A certified cheque is signed by the bank and the account holder; a personal cheque is only signed by the account holder.
  • Banks charge a fee for each certified cheque; personal cheques are usually paid for in batches.
  • Certified cheques protect the buyer against a cheque bouncing; personal cheques do not come with the guarantee that they will clear.
  • Writing a certified cheque requires a trip to the bank; writing a personal cheque does not.
  • A certified cheque will involve a hold on funds that are instituted by the bank; a personal cheque will not.

Our final thoughts

It’s easy to assume that cheques do not carry much importance in the modern banking world, but this is simply not so. Certified cheques are still frequently used, especially when making large purchases or by individuals who do not own personal cheques.

Understanding the benefits of a certified cheque is an important part of achieving holistic banking literacy.

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