Back in college, I did something pretty silly on campus that resulted in a fine.
While I was just being a goofball, that university cop didn't think my antics were so funny. None the less, I was assessed a fine.
Keep in mind this was around 2007 so the internet wasn't what it is today, so when I went to pay my fine I was notified that payments could only be completed via money order.
Back then I hardly knew how to fill out a check, let alone where the heck could I find a money order near me?
First, What is a Money Order?
Put simply, a money order is a piece of paper, like a check, that is used to make a payment.
The difference is that money orders are prepaid and are only issued once a buyer pays for said money order. Because of this upfront payment, money orders are considered much safer, and won’t bounce (which is why my college wanted a money order instead of a check).
When buying a money order, you need to write down who receives the funds by filling out the name of the person or company you want to pay. This helps prevent the money order ending up in the wrong hands or possibly being stolen (like cash can be).
Why use Money Orders?
Money orders are just like cash – they’re paid ahead of time so the amount does not change.
This is different from checks, that may bounce because of insufficient funds. The main benefits of using money orders are the following: security, simple, an alternative to a checking account.
Money orders are more secure than cash because they are addressed to a specific person.
They can also be sent without you needing to input your own personal bank information – which means no one has your bank details. They are simple to use because you don’t need to go online to use them.
You can send them across the country without an issue. And finally, they are a good alternative if you don’t want to get a checking account.
You can simply send the payment as a bill, whether it’s to your landlord, electricity or cable provider. It’s also easy to keep track of your expenses and keep your budget.
Typically, most people will use money orders for:
- Paying utilities
- Sending money overseas
- Sending money in a secure manner to family/friends
How to Get a Money Order
The steps to getting a money order are pretty simple:
- First, you need to buy a money order (see below on where to do that).
- Get the physical sheet of paper and be prepared with your cash or debit card, depending on how you’re planning on paying.
- You’ll need the name of the payee and the total amount you want to send.
- Fill out the money order. When filling out, you’ll need to add the payee’s name, address and you’ll need to sign it with your name.
- Make sure to keep the receipt so you can easily track the money and make sure it gets to your payee.
- Then, simply send your money order to your intended payee through the mail, and you’re good to go!
The process to actually getting a money order is quick, painless and actually very efficient. So that leads to the question, what are the best money order companies and where can you get an actual money order?
Top Money Order Companies
You can buy MoneyGram money orders at many different places, whether those are supermarkets, financial institutions or independent retailers. Look for MoneyGram signs when walking down the street and you’ll easily find one.
Learn more about MoneyGram here.
Western Union is another institution that sells money orders. You can buy them with cash or debit card, and some even accept credit card. Search for the Western Union sign in supermarkets and retailers, and you’ll be able to buy your money order there.
WU’s money orders are limited to less than $1,000 plus a small fee.
Learn about Western Union's services here.
The 7 Best Places to Get a Money Order Near You
Here are the best places to go and get your money orders!
Look for MoneyGram and WesterUnion signs in Walmart, you’re likely to find one there. At Walmart, money orders can cost up to 88 cents.
Walmart is one of the top places to get a money order. Simply search for the closest Walmart near you then go to the customer service station to get your money order.
Many different grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores sell money orders. When doing errands, look for the MoneyGram or Western Union logo. In stores you can expect to pay between $1 and $2 per money order.
To figure out what retail stores have money order vendors, simply search on your Google Maps app on your phone, “Money orders near me.”
711 convenience stores will most likely offer money orders of some form. It is best practice to always check ahead of time, but most locations do offer them.
However, just like the pack of bubble gum that costs 50% more, 711's money orders cost between 1% and 3% of the total amount. Depending on where it’s based, the minimum fee might be $0.65.
This means a $300 money order could cost $3 to $9.
Cost: $1-3% of Money Order
You can buy money orders at CVS through MoneyGram, but you won’t be able to cash them there. The maximum order is $500 and the fee per money order is $1.25.
Cost: $1-3% of Money Order
US Postal Service
The post office is a great place to get a money order because let's face it – there is a post office in every city around the country (or at the very least within a 10-15 drive).
If you visit the United States Postal Service's website, they state you can buy or cash a postal money order. So if you happen to be on the receiving end of a money order from the post office, you can go there to cash it.
The USPS money orders are known to be very safe. The only issue is that getting a USPS money order can be hard since not all post offices issue them (it’s worth calling ahead to make sure). A money order at USPS costs $1.25 for $500 and $1.75 for anything up to $1,000.
Cost: $1.25 to $1.75
Walgreens offers money orders as well as money transfers through Western Union. They have over 9,000 locations and sell money orders in 7,800 of those – not bad. Just double-check ahead of time!
Cost: $1-3% of Money Order
Banks are also a great place to buy money orders, although the fees are usually high. The fee for the account could be between $5 and $10. If you’re only planning on doing few money orders, it may be worth it. If not, consider Walmart or other retail stores.
Cost: Varies $5-$10
Local Credit Unions
Credit unions also sell money orders. The fee truly depends on the institution, although it usually stays at around $5.
Most credit unions also require membership of some sort to use their services at member rates. For example, Pentagon Federal Credit Union requires you to open up a savings account for $10.
Money orders at Kroger depend on the location. Having said that, they often cost $0.79 and won’t go higher than $2. They offer money orders up to $1,000.
Check Cashing Locations
Other money stores that manage money apart from banks and credit unions are also able to sell money orders.
These could be Wester Union agents, payday loans stores and other services that offer money transfers. Usually, the fee will be around $0.69 in addition to the total money order. The money order limit is usually anything up to $1,000.
Cost: Approx. 0.69 & a % of the total amount
Hopefully, you now know:
Where to Get a Money Order
Back in 2007 when I needed to find a money order after showing up with a check, I had to call my mom and ask her what to do. My goal was to help you avoid ever having to call home.
Lastly, money orders do have some limitations such as paying a minimal fee and limits of $1,000. However, in all, money orders are a super safe way to send and receive money.
The reason my college required money orders was because student helpers and volunteers had evidently stole checks and cash in the past. However, money orders cannot be stolen and their is a receipt of payment!
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! I got serious with money when I used Personal Capital to track my finances.