Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Cashier’s Check, Money Order and Personal Check: Which One Clears the Fastest?

Cashier's checks, personal check and money orders may clear the bank at different times. See how many days it takes for these funds to become available.
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The group photo before I took them in for deposit.
Here are all three checks, totaling $300.

How quickly deposits were available

Almost immediately after depositing the funds, our editor logged into her online account to find that $200 from the USPS money order and Chase cashier’s check was already available for withdrawal.

Meanwhile, the $100 from the Ally personal check was unavailable.

Tip: When there are transactions that haven’t been processed completely, you’ll often see a “pending balance,” which is different from your “available balance” (the actual amount of cash that you can withdraw).

At around 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday, our editor found that the entire $300 was available for withdrawal.

However, my Ally account activity did not even indicate that a $100 check was deposited.

Our editor had access to that $100 because of Chase's fund availability policy, which stipulates that up to $200 of a check may be available on the next business day.

Essentially, Chase is fronting that portion of the check deposit while it waits for the funds to clear with Ally. Since the check was less than $200, Chase made the full amount available to her.

The funds from the Ally personal check cleared my account Thursday night, so I would say that it took two business days for the check deposit to clear.

Faster and safer deposits cost more

The cashier’s check and money order cleared the fastest -- the money was immediately available since both of them are considered guaranteed funds.

But, as you can see, I had to pay fees to offer these fast and secure forms of payment.

Given that the cashier’s check and money order cleared equally as fast, you might wonder why anyone would use cashier’s checks -- remember I paid $8, while the fee for the money order was $1.25.

The reason is because there limits for money orders. The USPS only sells money orders for a maximum amount of $1,000, while cashier’s checks have no maximum (your account balance is your limit).

Regardless of the limits, the speed of the deposit is often a secondary thought when it comes to why people prefer cashier’s checks and money orders. It’s more about getting paid.

If I was ever skeptical about a payer’s financial credibility, I would ask for a cashier’s check or money order every time.

As for which one makes me feel safer -- cashier’s check by just a little bit because it is guaranteed by the bank, but a money order is still cheaper.

It's also safer than a personal check.

Compare Money Order Fees at Banks & Retailers

Company Fees Limits
Chase $5 $1,000
Bank of America $5 $1,000 Not available in Arizona, California, Nevada.
Wells Fargo $5
Citibank $5
U.S. Bank $5
Truist $5 for customers $10 for non-customers
PNC Bank $5
BMO Harris Bank $5 $1000
TD Bank $5
Capital One Does not issue money orders
Regions Bank $1 $1000
Santander $5
BMO Harris Bank $5 $1000
M&T Bank $6
CVS $0.70 $500
USPS $1.20 $500
Walmart $0.70 $1,000

Why check deposits might take longer to clear

While my experience with cashier’s checks came without flaws, the comments from our check clearing story at the top 10 banks in the U.S. serve as proof that there are times when these check deposits do not go as smoothly as anticipated.

Unhappy commenters complained about long hold times of five to seven days or longer, but they also deposited very large amounts ($50,000), which can complicate the process.

So to get to the bottom of it, I asked a Chase banker whether the check deposit amount has an effect on how long it takes to clear.

A Chase banker was kind enough to speak about check-deposit hold times.
A Chase banker was kind enough to speak about check-deposit hold times.

The Chase rep informed me that the speed of the check deposit (applies to any type of check and includes money orders) can vary based on the relationship a customer has with Chase.

A customer's account balance is also factored in. For example, if I had a $10,000 balance and made a $1,000 check deposit, the funds would likely clear the next business day.

If I had a $1 balance and made a $10,000 check deposit, Chase is probably going to put a hold on it (for up to 10 business days).

She added that if an account has a negative balance, shows regular overdraft activity or lots of returned deposits, the check deposits could take longer to clear.

As I walked by another bank, First American International Bank, I grabbed a deposit slip with a "Notice of Hold" explanation that pretty much echoes the policy at Chase:

Some banks put their deposit-hold policies on the back of the deposit slips. This one is from First American International Bank.
Some banks put their deposit-hold policies on the back of the deposit slips. This one is from First American International Bank.

If you ever have a check that is taking longer to clear, ask your bank why it is being held for so long. It might be due to any of those reasons mentioned above, or it might be because the check is fake.

Counterfeit cashier's checks and scams

As a regular eBay user, I’ve heard many stories about people receiving counterfeit cashier’s check and money orders.

They ship out their goods with the feeling that the payment is good, only to discover later that the bank found the check or money order to be fake.

So, if you are collecting a payment with either method, here are some ways to protect yourself:

Never accept more money than requested

It is common for a scammer to put a larger amount than necessary on a check or money order.

The thief might use this to manipulate you into shipping the item out quickly or may ask you to refund the difference immediately.

So, you ship the item out or refund the money, but later discover the check or money order was fake.

Bring a cashier’s check to a bank branch

Go to the payer’s bank and ask the teller to verify that legitimacy of a cashier’s check.

Once you get a confirmation that the check is authentic, you can proceed to deposit it.

Wait longer for the funds to clear

Having to wait longer (up to two weeks) seems like it will defeat the purpose a cashier’s check, but if the check is for a large amount, it’s better to play it safe and wait it out to be sure that your bank knows the cashier’s check or money order is real.

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