Bank drafts and certified cheques are similar but have different costs associated with them. When is one more appropriate to use vs. the other?

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    Interesting question; I've always just used whatever was required but never thought about the difference :) Would there be country-specific answers for this question?
    – Jedidja
    Commented May 14, 2010 at 8:49

3 Answers 3


From a user perspective, my standpoint is to use the cheapest available to me, that the receiver will find acceptable.

  • 1
    I think the question is more interested in the breakdown of the pro/cons and general intended purposes of the two instruments that seem to serve an identical function.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 18:30

In the US, these terms are covered by the UCC.

The distinctions between various forms of drafts were more important when the settlement periods were longer and options for money transfer were limited. Today, these various special forms of checks are antiquated, and unless you have a specific requirement to do otherwise, select the cheapest option. (A big exception is with real estate closings, where you are often required to bring a certified check due to lender or regulatory requirements.)

From the UCC Article 3, Section 104

(f) "Check" means (i) a draft, other than a documentary draft, payable on demand and drawn on a bank or (ii) a cashier's check or teller's check. An instrument may be a check even though it is described on its face by another term, such as "money order."

(g) "Cashier's check" means a draft with respect to which the drawer and drawee are the same bank or branches of the same bank.

(h) "Teller's check" means a draft drawn by a bank (i) on another bank, or (ii) payable at or through a bank.

(i) "Traveler's check" means an instrument that (i) is payable on demand, (ii) is drawn on or payable at or through a bank, (iii) is designated by the term "traveler's check" or by a substantially similar term, and (iv) requires, as a condition to payment, a countersignature by a person whose specimen signature appears on the instrument.

From Article 3, Section 409

(d) "Certified check" means a check accepted by the bank on which it is drawn. Acceptance may be made as stated in subsection (a) or by a writing on the check which indicates that the check is certified. The drawee of a check has no obligation to certify the check, and refusal to certify is not dishonor of the check.


4 BANK DRAFTS 4.1 Introduction A bank draft is an order to pay a sum of money on demand and addressed by a banker either to itself or to another banker and drawn on its head office or at a branch.11 Bank drafts are issued and then signed by two authorized signing officers of the bank; one being a “counter signature”. Once “signed”, bank drafts become a statutory obligation of the signing bank and are irrevocable.12

4.2 Particulars Required The date, amount payable, and payee’s name must be typed on the bank draft prior to its delivery. It can be payable to a customer or creditor. Once the bank draft is purchased, the amount paid is placed in a special reserve account. When presented for payment, funds are withdrawn or collected from that account.13 The item is then collected through the ACSS.

4.3 Not a Guarantee of Payment Although bank drafts are substitutes for cash, they cannot always be converted to cash immediately on deposit to a holder’s14 bank and are not a guarantee of payment. A collecting bank must be certain that the signatures are genuine and authorized.15 Funds are not realized until actual collection. The larger the amount of the draft or the greater the geographical distance between the place of issue and deposit, are factors that can increase the time of collection.16 Many devices exist for discovering counterfeit banknotes; however no corresponding devices exist for the discovery of forged or unauthorized signatures on a bank draft or certified cheque.17


5.1 Introduction “Certification” is the name given to the marking of a cheque by a bank to show that its customer has an existing account with sufficient funds to meet the drawn amount.18Certification is demonstrated by a mark on the cheque, typically a stamp marked “certified.”19 It must be signed by a bank or other financial institution.20 Certified cheques are not a guarantee of payment; items bearing forged endorsements can be returned for up to six years.

5.2 Particulars of Payment Certified cheques are typically drawn by a bank’s regular customer21 and payable to a creditor or an endorsee. They are payable on demand and collected through the ACSS. The customer’s account is then debited and the amount set aside into a special suspense account. When presented for payment through the ACSS, the amount is charged to that account.

5.3 A Direct Promise to Pay The courts have held that certification amounts to an acceptance of the cheque by the bank and puts the payee22 in possession of something equivalent to cash. There is no difference at law in the treatment of a cheque certified at the request of the bank’s customer and one certified at the request of the payee. A bank may be able to refuse payment on a certified cheque, if it can be demonstrated that a payee would be unjustly enriched by payment.23 Certification therefore is a direct promise of a bank to pay, independent of a customer’s obligation to pay, even where a bank has mistakenly certified a cheque.24

5.4 Verification is Required Whether funds are direct deposited by bank draft or certified cheque, there is no appreciable difference in risk in comparison to closings in the past.25 Remember however that financial institutions may not post funds to a trust account until the next business day and sometimes later if the other lawyer’s financial institution is not one of the major institutions, or, if a cheque is drawn on an account in another region of thecountry.26 Verification of both items is necessary as the ACSS does not guarantee payment by bank draft or certified cheque.

  • 1
    I think this is a quote if so I think you need to attribute it correctly.
    – user4127
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 16:39

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