Article | 3:16 min read

The Difference Between Checks and Money Orders

Budget and Save

What are the differences between personal checks, money orders, and cashier’s checks – and when do you use them?

A person writing out a check

Writing checks has become more infrequent as time goes on and technology improves. Digital wallets make paying in-person or online instant, and services like Zelle® allow you to send money to friends and family without having to write a check or visit the ATM. Still, there are instances where writing a check is the best way to pay. It’s important to know when writing a check is right for you. What are your paper check options, and how do you best use them?

Personal Checks

A personal check is a standard kind of check you’ve probably seen before – it includes a payee, amount, and requires a signature on the front, as well an endorsement signature on the reverse. Financial institutions typically give these to you when you open a bank account, and you can re-order by contacting your bank, or online. 

When you write a check, you are guaranteeing you are able to pay a specific amount. If you write a check where there’s not enough money in the account, that’s called a bounced check, or a check with insufficient funds. These checks cannot be cashed, and often your account will be charged with an NSF (nonsufficient funds) fee, so it’s important to make sure there are enough funds in the account for any checks.

Although less popular now than before, checks have a variety of uses. If you’re making payments that would benefit from a physical paper trail, such as bills or rent, a check allows you to keep a copy of exactly what you wrote. It’s important to keep a close eye on your checks, so you can protect yourself from possible fraud.

Cashier’s Checks

A cashier’s check is very similar to a personal check: it is a piece of paper that stands in for money. The main difference is that a cashier’s check is written by the bank, and not you. The bank guarantees the money on the check is available, which is why you can’t write a cashier’s check for yourself.

Getting a cashier’s check requires a little more work than a personal check. It’s important to make sure you know the amount and recipient for the check. Once you have that, you can visit a bank and speak with a teller. Once you have the check, the bank will also give you a receipt for your records. It’s important to note that some banks charge a fee for a cashier’s check. 

Cashier’s checks are especially useful if you’re making a large payment, such as the down payment on a vehicle or the sale of a house.

Money Orders

Just like personal and cashier’s checks, money orders are secure forms of payment, representing an amount of money. Unlike checks, however, a money order is not directly pulled from your account, and they are useful in instances where you may not want to use personal check which has personal information such as address, T/R number and account number.

Money orders work in the opposite of checks – you exchange money (typically cash) for a piece of paper that represents that amount of money. You can purchase a money order at several places besides the bank, such as post offices, convenience stores, grocery stores, and more. Just like checks, they offer a paper trail to prove any payments.

If you’re making a one-time purchase but want tangible proof that of the exact amount, money orders are a secure option. Plus, money orders do not contain your personal information, such as your account number. Our MaxMoney® account comes with free money orders.

Although it might seem easier to pay with cash or card, there are situations where you need recorded, physical payment. Depending on the context, any of these options will let you pay what you need, while keeping a trail of what you did. As always, contact us if you have any questions – we’re here to help make banking easier for you. 


The information provided in these articles is intended for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as the opinion of Central Bancompany, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and does not imply endorsement or support of any of the mentioned information, products, services, or providers. All information presented is without any representation, guaranty, or warranty regarding the accuracy, relevance, or completeness of the information.