Money orders are a fast and secure method of paying bills or transferring money to distant places. They can be replaced if lost or stolen. Many businesses that prefer not to accept personal checks will accept money orders because they know the money has to be paid up front and there is no risk that the money order isn’t good.
A money order is a form of money or wire transfer. Money orders are sold by the United States Postal Service (USPS) and by commercial providers such as Western Union and many banks. The USPS can send money anywhere in the United States plus about 30 foreign countries, mainly in Latin America. Western Union has a network of agents worldwide; money can be sent almost anywhere using their service.
The first step to send a money order is to find a place to purchase one. USPS money orders may be purchased at any U.S. post office, from rural route carriers and on military facilities overseas. Western Union agents include supermarkets, convenience stores and check-cashing stores. You may purchase money orders in person at your bank. Commercial providers, including Western Union, also allow you to send money orders online.
When you buy a money order from the USPS, you must fill out the money order with your name, address and phone number. You may include an e-mail address if you wish. You also need the recipient’s name and address. If you purchase more than $1,000 worth of money orders in a single day, you have to show a valid photo ID (for example, a driver’s license, state ID or military ID). For amounts more than $3,000, you’ll have to complete Form 8105 (Funds Transfer Report). Payment is by cash, traveler’s check or credit/debit card.
Write your name, address and phone number along with the name and address of the recipient on the money order. As with a USPS money order, you will need to show a valid photo ID if purchasing a money order for a large amount.
Western Union and other providers that offer online money orders require your name, address and phone number plus the recipient’s name and address. You also have to provide a credit or debit card number and expiration date (usually Visa, MasterCard, Discover and/or American Express are accepted) to pay for the money order.