Today, we have a bewildering array of options when it comes to handing over money: checks, credit and debit cards, Paypal, wire transfers, more cryptocurrencies than you can shake a blockchain at, and of course hard cash. Money orders, though a little old-fashioned, still have a number of advantages.
Making the best use of them, of course, starts with knowing how to fill out a money order. This isn’t complicated at all, but making sure that you know how to complete every important detail can save you money and even time.
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The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need: How to Fill out a Money Order
As it happens, money orders are some of the simplest financial documents to use. This doesn’t mean you can do so carelessly, though: getting something wrong can cause a delay in payment, prevent the recipient from cashing it, or even result in a financial loss to the person drawing it. Here’s what you need to keep in mind; just understand that not every place that sells money orders uses the same layout like this sample. The main points are always the same, though.
- Go to the teller or customer service counter and simply tell them what amount you need. They will then print this out on the form and accept payment. This may be in cash, with a debit card or from a national bank account you hold there; checks are usually not accepted for money orders.
- Fill in the recipient’s name where it says “Pay to the order of”. This can be either a company or a person, but it’s important to pay attention here. Whoever wants to cash it has to positively identify themselves, so writing “Bob Doolittle” when the name on her driver’s license is “Roberta” may cause problems (this rarely happens, though). You can, if you want, write “To cash”, but this will not work out well if the money order is stolen.
- Write down your and the recipient’s address. It’s often a good idea to include this information, for example, if the payee needs to contact you, but not all financial institutions that sell money orders require you to do so.
- If needed, include something that identifies you on the “Account Number” or “Memo” line. This could be an invoice number, your name or a description of what you’re paying for – just make sure the recipient can figure out who’s trying to send them money.
- In case there’s space for a signature on the front of the form, that is for you to confirm that everything is correct. Do not sign the back, though: this is how the payee accepts (endorses) the payment.
- Importantly: keep the receipt! You can, with a few restrictions, contact customer support to cancel or replace a money order that’s gone missing. Many issuers also allow you to see whether it has been cashed or not, though you’ll need to use registered mail if you want to see its progress in transit. Without a receipt or at least the money order’s serial number, however, you’ll have difficulty getting anywhere.
The Benefits: Why People Like to Use Money Orders
Money orders have been in common use since the 1830s. What continues to make them so popular?
Unlike with checks, you’ll generally write the payee’s name as soon as you receive the document, making theft less of a risk. Money orders also don’t contain personal financial information like account numbers and even home addresses, protecting the payer.
- Convenience and Cost
With post offices, grocery stores and several other financial institutions all selling money orders, sometimes at a fee of only $1, you don’t need to have a checking account or visit your closest bank branch. Sending a money order by mail instead of doing a wire transfer may save you $20 or more.
- Generally Accepted
Many sellers, landlords, and companies no longer accept personal checks. Unlike writing a check, the person taking out a money order pays their bank or other organization the full amount when they fill out the money order. This means the funds are already waiting for the payee and the document can’t bounce (money orders can be canceled for a refund by the person who bought them, though this generally takes about a month to happen and has to be requested before the document is cashed). Money orders are seen as reliable, even in foreign countries, while costing less than many other secure options.
When You Should Try Other Payment Methods Instead
Money orders are a useful tool, but like everything except kittens, they’re not perfect. In some cases, using a cashier’s check or electronic payment may be safer, cheaper or both.
- Large Purchases
Most places that issue money orders will not do so for more than $1,000, while only the first $200 will be available the next day. This makes them a good option for buying a new blanket from Etsy, but perhaps not for paying your rent.
- International Payments to Unknown Vendors
The paper trail for money orders is not long enough for anyone to investigate fraud effectively. Especially with online purchases, Paypal or credit cards offer better protection against scams. Sending money abroad to someone you know is fine, though, as their identity will be verified and they can be paid in local currency.
- Purchasing Investments, or Any Time You’re Unsure
While it may seem like knowing how to do a money order is all a payer or payee needs in most cases, they are not totally immune to fraud. Using them to make several large deposits is frowned on since their cash-based, somewhat anonymous nature makes it possible to use them for money laundering. Also, if anyone you’re dealing with tells you an implausible story, or wants to send you a money order for more than they owe and ask you to return the balance in cash, it’s best to be cautious. Money orders are sometimes forged, too; if anything seems fishy, you can try to confirm their authenticity by phoning up the issuing company.
Filling out a Money Order Is Something Everyone Can Do
Some people find the simple act of walking into a bank a little intimidating, and filling out multi-page forms they don’t quite understand is the last thing they want to do. Others, for various reasons, have trouble getting a bank account. Still, others prefer to deal in cash but don’t want to take the risk of it getting lost or stolen in the mail. For many online shoppers and sellers, reasonably secure alternatives are just too expensive.
Anyone who finds themselves in one of these situations can benefit from learning how to use a money order. Simply understanding your financial options better can often save you money, and we here at ProMoneySavings always strive to help you with the best advice possible.