If you’re looking to send money to a family member, friend, colleague or even a stranger (someone you’ve been dealing with on eBay, perhaps?) who doesn’t live local to you, there are a number of different options available. You could arrange a direct bank transfer, send a cheque, send cash in the post (extremely risky), or, as is often the case with online dealings, you could use a service such as PayPal to transfer the money instantly. However, there is one other option available that many people never even consider: a money order. Money orders have been around for decades and they remain as one of the most simple and cost effective ways of sending money to a friend, family member or colleague. But how exactly does a money order work? How safe is it? How does it compare to the other available options? And also, are money orders likely to be moving online any time soon?
WHAT IS A MONEY ORDER? (AND HOW DO THEY WORK?)
Money orders are not dissimilar to cheques in the way that they work; however, there is one crucial downside of a cheque that a money order solves. With cheques, you simply fill in the amount you want to send and whom you want to send it to on an empty cheque in your own personal chequebook. Your chequebook is issued by your bank and therefore, is connected to your own bank account. When written, you either hand the cheque to it’s recipient in person or send it in the mail. When the cheque reaches its recipient, he/she takes it to the bank and “cashes” it. The money is then transferred from your bank account to theirs. It’s generally considered much safer to send a cheque rather than cash when mailing money to a recipient as only the person specified on the cheque is able to gain access to the money.
Money orders work in much the same way but with one crucial difference: you pay in advance with a money order. To send a money order, you simply head down to your local post office or bank with the amount of money you want to send. Simply request a money order for a certain amount from the desk and hand over your money. The bank teller (or Post Office worker) will then ask whom you’d like to send the money to. You need to tell them so that they can write the recipients name on the money order itself (this ensures that only that person is able to cash the money order, much like with a cheque). You’ll have to pay a small fee to obtain your money order, but it’s usually only a couple of dollars.Once everything is paid, you’ll receive your money order and you can then simply post it to your recipients address. When they receive it, they should take it to the bank and cash it, much like they would with a cheque.
Your money order should look something like this:
SENDING MONEY ORDERS INTERNATIONALLY
If you’re planning on sending a money order internationally (i.e. outside the U.S. or UK), it’s important that you make sure the money order will be accepted at the other end. Due to different currencies in different countries, not all banks accept international money orders. For example, not all American banks accept international money orders from Canada or other countries. Even if they do accept the money order, there can sometimes be delays processing it, as it can take longer for the bank to actually obtain the money in order to pay out to the recipient. Many European countries are similar. The best way to avoid this problem is to ask the recipient to check with their bank in advance and make sure that they will accept your money order before you send it. Some countries and services also offer to create money orders in different currencies (e.g. a money order can be purchased in Canada where the money order is for U.S. Dollars rather than Canadian). It’s worth asking about this at your local bank or chosen international money order provider (e.g. Western Union).
THE BIG QUESTION: ARE MONEY ORDERS GOING ONLINE?
There’s no denying the fact that money orders are a somewhat primitive form of money transfer, especially by western standards.
Today, we’re used to direct debits, instantaneous wire transfers, and online payment processing services like PayPal and Google Wallet. Many banks even allow instant money transfers for free via their online banking application these days. So, this begs the question: will money orders soon be going online? Well, in a way, they already have. If you live in India, you can arrange an online money order from the comfort of your home using services from the likes of ICICI Bank or the ePostOffice.gov.in. It’s important to remember that in India however, there are a lot fewer options for sending and receiving money electronically.
Although Indians are able to use services such as PayPal, they’re often subjected to high fees when receiving money and also, when withdrawing to their bank accounts. Because of this, arranging a good old-fashioned money order is a cost-effective option for sending money in countries like India.
In the U.S and UK, money orders are essentially already online; they’re just not called money orders. Companies like Western Union and Moneygram allow you send money electronically, without the need for leaving your home or fumbling around posting physical money orders via the postal service. Instead, you’re able to arrange a transfer online to a recipient of your choice and they are then able to walk into their local Western Union (or another similar service) store to receive the money almost instantly. No posting. No waiting. No messing around with a paper copy of a money order. Because of this, our prediction is that although the traditional money order may be around for years to come yet, it’s likely to stay in its current offline form, while competing quicker and more convenient methods of money transfer (e.g. Western Union) continue to be more widely adopted.