Money orders are a popular payment method that provides an alternative to cash or checks. They are considered safer than cash since they require a signature for payment and cannot be canceled once issued. Moreover, money orders are beneficial when checks are unavailable, or individuals do not have a bank account. In this article, we provide a step-by-step guide on how to fill out and obtain money orders, as well as important aspects such as safekeeping, fees, and common errors to avoid.
Purchasing a money order
To purchase a money order, visit a post office, bank, or retail store that offers financial services. The most common issuers of money orders are the United States Postal Service (USPS), Western Union, and MoneyGram.
Before purchasing, ensure the amount matches your required payment. Most issuers have pre-printed forms that allow you to fill out the payee and recipient details. You may also obtain a blank form to fill out yourself.
Filling out the payee and recipient details
The payee is the individual or company that receives the payment. Ensure you spell the name correctly and accurately since misspelling can cause delays or rejections.
The recipient is the person who will cash the money order. The recipient can deposit the money order into their bank account or cash it directly. Ensure you fill out the recipient’s information correctly, including their name, address, and identification number, where applicable.
Writing the memo
The memo line is optional but useful when you’re paying a bill or have a specific reason for issuing the money order. Use the memo to describe why you are issuing the money order or payment.
Signing and detaching the receipt
Once you’ve filled out the form, sign the money order. Make sure the signature matches the purchase ID, as some issuers require proof of purchase. Detach the receipt from the money order and keep it for your records.
Online vs. In-Person
There are two primary methods of obtaining money orders: online and in-person. Online methods are convenient and usually faster, while in-person methods allow you to ask questions and seek clarification where necessary.
Online methods offer the convenience of obtaining a money order from any location at any time, as long as you have internet access. Some issuers allow you to print the money order directly from your computer.
In-person methods are beneficial for individuals who prefer a physical exchange and the opportunity to ask questions, particularly if they are not familiar with the process or are filling out international money orders.
Fees vary depending on the issuer and the amount purchased. Online methods may incur additional fees, such as shipping and handling charges. In-person methods may require additional charges as well, such as service fees for retailers and convenience stores.
Online methods are typically faster since they do not require traveling and waiting in lines. However, some issuers may require you to wait for several business days before the money order is processed.
In-person methods provide instant processing, and you can typically receive the money order shortly after completing the purchase.
Safekeeping is vital since you might need a record of payment in future. Keep the money order receipt, which is the detachable part, and store it in a secure and easily accessible location. If possible, make a copy of the money order and keep it with the receipt. This way, you have evidence of payment, and if the money order gets lost, you have a copy to present.
Fees and Convenience
Issuers differ in convenience and fee structures, but the common issuers include banks, post offices and convenience stores. For example, banks and postal services tend to charge less for money orders, while convenience stores may charge higher fees.
Moreover, some issuers such as USPS offer discounts for bulk purchases or specific groups such as students and retirees. It’s advisable to compare the fees and convenience offered by different issuers before purchasing money orders.
International Money Orders
International money orders are similar to domestic ones, but there are differences. The process requires additional documentation, such as a recipient’s identification number or a passport, and the fees are often higher.
Ensure you have the correct recipient information, including the postal or zip codes. It’s best to purchase an international money order from a post office or bank, which typically have more experience handling international transactions.
Alternative Payment Methods
Money orders are not the only form of payment, and it’s essential to explore other options. Online payment options such as PayPal, Google Pay, Venmo, and Cash App are becoming increasingly popular and offer similar advantages to money orders. They are typically faster, safer and do not require an exchange of physical money or documents.
Mobile payment options through platforms like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay are also viable alternatives. These methods allow you to make payments through a mobile phone using secure and encrypted methods.
Some common mistakes when filling out money orders include spelling errors, incorrect payee details, and losing the accompanying receipt. Double-check the payee and recipient details to avoid misspelling, and confirm the information. Losing the receipt can be problematic when you need to track payment or need to prove you made a payment.
Money orders are an ideal method of payment when you cannot use cash or checks. It’s essential to understand how to obtain money orders, the different fees and convenience levels of issuers, and how to correctly fill out the money order. Safekeeping the money order receipt is crucial for reference and tracking payments. Other alternative payment options such as online and mobile payment methods are available and can offer further convenience and flexibility. Avoid common errors such as misidentification, and you’ll be on your way to using money orders with ease.