While money orders may seem like a thing of the past, they are still a great option for sending money to people or paying bills. In fact, they’re one of the most secure payment alternatives if you don’t have a bank account. Today we will discuss what money orders are, why you’d use one, and where to get one.
What is a money order?
A money order is very similar to a personal check. They are both documents used for making payments, however, there are key difference among the two.
The main difference between a money order and a personal check is that you have to pay for a money order upfront. When you have a checking account, you have a book of blank checks waiting for you to write one as needed. However, when you go purchase a money order, you must hand over funds to the retailer before you are given the document.
Also, while writing checks is free, you will need to pay in advance before a money order is produced. In addition to the money order amount, you’ll need to pay the retailer a small fee. This will vary depending on where you’re purchasing it at – some places are cheaper than others (we’ll discuss this later).
You can pay for a money order using a debit card, cash, traveler’s check, or other form of guaranteed payment.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you can write a check for any amount, as long as you have the funds in your account to cover it. In terms of a money order, you are limited to transactions of $1,000 each.
Why use a money order?
If you’ve never used this form of payment, you are probably wondering why you would want to even consider it. Here’s the top benefits of using money orders:
- Improved Privacy – Sometimes you have to pay companies or people you may not know or trust. During times like this the last thing you want is to share your personal information with them. While checks include this kind of information, money orders do not. Thus, they are great for protecting your privacy.
- The Funds are Guaranteed – Money orders are prepaid, so you never have to worry about your check bouncing. Hence, the funds contained in a money order are always guaranteed.
- They are Protected from Theft – Money orders are a great way to send money to family and friends, as they are safe to mail. Once you receive the money order you must fill out the name of the recipient, so it’s nearly impossible to steal one.
- They are Safe – Let’s say you want to make a large purchase without a checking account, how do you do this safely? Obviously, carrying around a large amount of cash is not a good idea. A money order on the other hand is an inconspicuous way to complete the transaction.
How much do money orders cost?
The cost of a money order will vary, depending on where you are buying it. Generally speaking, the most reasonable place to buy a money order is at a retail store. Banks tend to be one of the most expensive places to purchase them. You usually find money orders for between $1.00 and $5.00 each. The price may be a little less or a little more depending on location.
Just keep in mind that since there are limits you may need to purchase multiple money orders. For example, if you are trying to obtain a money order for $2,000 you’ll need to purchase 2, and pay a fee for each one.
Where to get a money order?
There are many places you can buy money orders. You should consider fees, location, and service when choosing a place. While each option will have it’s own benefits, your choice will depend on what factors are most important to you. Let’s take a look at the top places to buy money orders.
Convenience stores, grocers, pharmacies, and big-box retailers usually sell money orders. This is a great option for those looking at cost and convenience. If you are out running errands simply look for a Western Union or MoneyGram logo at retailers such as Walmart, 7-Eleven, Kroger, Safeway, CVS, Publix, and so on. The fees will still vary by store, but generally you can expect to spend between $1 and $2 at places like these.
Credit Unions and Banks
Another great option for money orders is your bank. Though banks generally charge between $5 and $10 per money order, they often give higher-tier account holders discounts. Some banks may even waive the fee for you altogether. Though this option may cost a bit more money, banks and credit unions can be more convenient as they’re not usually as busy as stores. If you only buy money orders occasionally, the fee probably won’t make a big difference, however, if you buy them frequently, you probably want to find a cheaper alternative.
The other thing to keep in mind is that most banks and credit unions can make it easier for you to track the money order if needed.
United States Postal Service
The Unites States Post Office is another great option. Money orders purchased here have a good reputation all around the world. However, getting one here can be a bit more challenging as not all post offices offer them. You’ll definitely want to call ahead to confirm the location you’ll be visiting sells them. The only downfall is that you may have to wait in line here, but they are rather cheap – anywhere from $1.25 to $1.75 each, depending on the issue amount you’re trying to obtain.
Other money stores may also sell money orders. Payday loan places, Western Union agents, and other money transfer services are great places to check.
While there are some websites that claim to offer money orders, you probably want to avoid this. It’s important to buy from a reputable retailer that you trust, this will protect you from scams and paying too much for the service.
In conclusion, money orders are great options for alternative payment solutions. Regardless if you are trying to pay a bill or simply send money to a friend or family member, it’s safe, private, and guaranteed.