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A cashier's check (cashier's cheque, banker's cheque, bank cheque, official cheque, demand draft, teller's cheque, bank draft or treasurer's cheque) is a check guaranteed by a bank. They are treated as guaranteed funds and are usually cleared the next day. It is the customer's right to request "next-day availability" when depositing a cashier's check in person. Most banks do not clear them instantly. However, banks are permitted to take back money from a "cleared" check one or two weeks later if subsequent processing finds it to be fraudulent. Because customers believe the checks have been found valid and have been converted to cash in hand, customers are readily defrauded by schemes that ask them to part with goods or a portion of the money if it is cleared in a timely manner.
Cashier's checks feature the name of the issuing bank in a prominent location, usually the upper left-hand corner or upper centre of the check. In addition, they are generally produced with enhanced security features, including watermarks, security thread, color-shifting ink, and special bond paper. These are designed to decrease the vulnerability to counterfeit items. To be recognized as a cashier's check, words to that effect must be included in a prominent place on the front of the item.
The payee's name, the written and numeric amount to be tendered, the remitter's information, and other tracking information (such as the branch of issue), are printed on the front of the check. The check is generally signed by one or two bank employees or officers; however, some banks issue cashier's checks featuring a facsimile signature of the bank's chief executive officer or other senior official.
Some banks contract out the maintenance of their cashier's check accounts and check issuing. One leading contractor is Integrated Payment Systems, which issues cashier's checks and coordinates redemption of the items for many banks, in addition to issuing money orders and other payment instruments. In theory, checks issued by a financial institution but drawn on another institution, as is often the case with credit unions, are teller's checks.
Due to an increase in fraudulent activities in 2006 many banks insist upon waiting for a cashier's check to clear the originating institution. Personal checks will thus have the same utility in such transactions.
In the United States, under Article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code, a cashier's check is effective as a note of the bank. Also, according to Regulation CC (Reg CC) of the Federal Reserve, cashier's checks are recognized as "guaranteed funds" and amounts under $5,000 are not subject to deposit holds, except in the case of new accounts. The length of a hold varies (2 days to 2 weeks) depending on the bank. It is not clear what length of time may pass before a bank can be held responsible for accepting a bad cashier's check.
In Canada, bank drafts do not carry any different legal weight as opposed to a standard check, but are provided as a service to clients as a payment instrument with guaranteed funds. Drafts (or money orders depending on the issuing institution) usually have better security features than standard checks, and as such are often preferred when the receiver is concerned about receiving fraudulent payment instruments. However, bank drafts can also be subject to counterfeiting, and as such can be held or verified by depositing institutions in accordance with their hold funds policy, prior to providing access to the funds.
The term money order is used non-uniformly in Canada, with some institutions offering both money orders and bank drafts depending on the amount, with others only offering one or the other for any amount. Generally, both bank drafts and money orders are treated the same in regards to guaranteed funds and hold policies.
Money orders are a popular alternative to cashier's checks and are considered safer than personal bank checks. However, they are generally not recognized as "guaranteed funds" under Reg CC, and are limited to a specified maximum amount ($1,000 or less under U.S. law for domestic postal money orders).
Because of regulatory requirements associated with the Patriot Act and the Bank Secrecy Act due to updated concerns over money laundering, most insurance and brokerage firms will no longer accept money orders as payment for insurance premiums or as deposits into brokerage accounts.
The counterfeit cashier's check scam is a scheme where the victim is sent a cashier's check or money order for payment on an item for sale on the Internet. When the money order is taken to the bank it may not be detected as counterfeit for 10 business days or more, but the bank will deposit the money into the account and state that it has been "verified" or is "clear" in about 24 hours. This gives the victim a false feeling of security that the money order was real, so they proceed with the transaction. When the bank does find that the money order is counterfeit and reverses the account credit many days later, the customer will usually have already mailed the item. (See the Craiglist variation of the Nigerian scam.)