Money orders are popular alternatives to making a payment by a check. Many people often opt to use a money order to pay bills or send cash to someone because it is a quick and convenient method to send funds.
Why are money orders sometimes more preferable than checks? Money orders are relatively straightforward, don’t expire and also eliminate the need for ensuring enough funds are in a checking account to cover the amount sent since they are paid for upfront before the money is sent. They are also an inexpensive alternative to buying certified checks.
Once purchased, the money is always covered and there are no worries over a bounced check if someone holds onto the document for a long period of time. This is also a good convenience for people who don’t use checking accounts. Or, if an agency won’t take a personal check, a money order is a good substitute for payment. There are many places you can go to purchase a money order in the United States.
One of the most popular locations to buy money orders is at the United States Postal Service (USPS). At the USPS the money order prices are typically lower than some private companies will charge. The amount you pay will vary according to how large the money order you’re purchasing will be and where the money order will be cashed. For instance, according to 2016 rates, domestic U.S. money orders will cost $1.25 for amounts purchased from $.01 to $500. Money orders purchased for $500.01 to $1,000 will be charged a fee of $1.65 for the money order.
Money orders purchased at the USPS with the intent of being cashed in another country are a little more expensive to buy; the international money orders cost $4.75 and can be purchased for amounts up to $700 (the exception being El Salvador and Guyana where it’s limited to $500). One of the biggest disadvantages to USPS money orders is you cannot send funds electronically.
Western Union is another place you can buy a money order. You can either order from Western Union directly or purchase at supermarkets, convenient stores or individual merchants that sell Western Union money orders. If a private merchandiser sells Western Union money orders, you can identify them by looking for the black and yellow Western Union logo typically displayed in their stores.
Money orders purchased through Western Union are more costly than USPS. The rates charged are dependent on how much the money order is made out for and the location the money order is being sent to. However, an advantage to using Western Union is the funds can be sent electronically for you, which is a great convenience.
Other Things to Know
In addition, there are a few other independent merchants that offer money orders. You can find many of these online, but be aware some may be scams or will charge you much higher fees than you’d find at USPS or Western Union. Even though some companies you can find online are scams, there are legitimate companies which may meet your needs.
It’s always a good idea to search for reviews and also check with the Better Business Bureau if you are unsure or unfamiliar with any company you’re thinking about buying a money order from. Prior to purchase, you want to ensure they don’t have a seedy reputation or bad record of customers losing their money during transactions.
A good rule of thumb when planning to buy a money order is to know the precise amount you need since you have to pre-pay. Once the money order is bought, you cannot change the amount indicated on the front of the document. Additionally, the U.S. Patriot Act now requires closer examination for large amounts of dollars purchased in the form of a money order and, as a result, the amounts for sale may be limited (for instance you cannot purchase a money order larger than $1,000 from the USPS).
Money orders are a handy alternative to personal checks to send money or pay a bill. The USPS is the most inexpensive option, but if you are in a hurry or prefer your payment to be sent electronically, the other options, such as Western Union, may be more preferable and better meet your needs.
Leigh has been writing on the web since 2007. She has a high interest in business, tech, higher education, and Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia travel, but loves to write about a variety of topics. In addition to writing on Writedge, she also runs a blog about the Washington DC Metro Area and a photography blog Photos by Leigh Goessl.