International money orders are an inexpensive, safe and effective way to send small amounts of money to some international destinations. Government-run post offices guarantee international money orders and charge much smaller fees than commercial services. Furthermore, post offices will cash the money order and many banks process international money orders on the same day that depositors bring them in, avoiding the weeks of verification and bureaucracy that international bank transfers or personal checks from foreign countries can incur.
What Is an International Money Order?
An international money order is a check issued by a postal service. In the United States, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) issues international money orders, which can be cashed at banks or at post offices in cooperating countries. Personal checks are often only accepted nationally, and while some banks will accept personal checks from abroad, the checks go through a long verification process before they can be cashed. Banks consider a check from the USPS, however, to be much more secure, and many will cash one on the spot.
How Do I Get an International Money Order?
You can get an international money order by going to any U.S. post office and asking the cashier for one. You will have to pay the full amount that you wish to send, plus a fee of $3.85 (the fee is subject to change).
How Can I Use an International Money Order?
The money order is valid in the United States and about 30 participating countries, mostly in the Americas. You can send the money order to a person in a participating country, who can then cash it at the post office. The participating countries, as of 2010, are Albania, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cape Verde, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Montserrat, Peru, St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago. Some banks in countries not on the list will cash international money orders from the USPS; check with the bank first.
What Are the Restrictions on International Money Orders?
Post offices in countries not on the list will not cash a money order from the USPS. Furthermore, the maximum amount that the USPS will issue on a money order is $700, whereas banks and commercial wire transfer services have much higher limits. El Salvador and Guyana will only accept money orders for $500 or less.
Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.