What is a Money Order and How Do You Get One?

Posted on Wednesday 04 December 2019

We all send out payments in many ways each day. Whether it’s getting your morning latte, buying a new pair of winter boots, helping a friend in a financial crisis, or paying electric and internet bills, you’re making payments. And not surprisingly, there are tons of different ways to send your money into the right hands.

Next to good old fashioned cash and cheques, one of the more traditional forms of sending payments is through a money order. If you haven’t used one before, you might be surprised to learn that they’ve actually been around for over a century. They were first introduced in 1882 by American Express, later becoming known as traveler’s checks (take that to your next trivia night).

Despite their history, money orders aren’t used very often—but there are a lot of good reasons why someone might want to send one instead of cash or cheques. Now, you might be asking yourself: What is a money order? How do they work? Where should I even go to get one?

In the sections below, we’ll dive into all of the basics to help guide you through the process.

What is a Money Order? How Does it Work?

Simply put, a money order is a piece of paper that guarantees a specified amount of funds. The steps to putting it together are pretty straightforward: you fill out the name and address of the person who will be receiving the funds, specify the fund amount, sign it, and send it off. That's it. It's not like credit card arbitrage or something complex.
Money orders are similar to cheques.

Well, there are a few key differences between the two:

  • Cheques are backed by your bank or credit union account; a money order must be paid for in cash at the time that it is created.
  • Cheques require only your signature, not the recipient; a money order requires signatures from both you AND the recipient in order to be cashed.
  • Cheques have your bank account information listed at the bottom; a money order does not.
  • Cheques may be provided free of charge from your financial institution, or you could pay a small fee to have them printed; money orders typically cost more, ranging anywhere from $1 to $10.
  • Cheques can be written based on the amount that you have in your bank account; money orders, however, often have a $1,000 limit.
  • Cheques may need a few business days to clear; funds from a money order are available as soon as the recipient cashes it out.

One of the biggest differences between the two methods is that a cheque could potentially bounce as a result of insufficient funds. Because a money order cannot be issued without cash prepayment (literally), they are often a much more reliable way for the receiver to get funds.

Why Would I Use One?

Sometimes the only form of payment accepted is a money order—and in that case, you don’t have much of a choice. But even for the instances where you can choose between alternative payment forms, there are benefits like information safety to consider:

Your personal information is kept safe.

Using a cheque connected to your bank account means that the receiver sees your account information, bank account number and transit number. For friends, family members, and trusted vendors, this isn’t a big deal—but if you’re sending payment to someone that you haven’t dealt with before, or if you just want an added layer of security, a money order might be a great choice.

You’re sending money through mail.

Snail mail is great for thank you notes and that annual $10 from your grandmother, but you may think twice before you send large amounts of money through the mail. What happens if it gets delivered to the wrong address by mistake? How do you know that the person who ends up with your money is actually the right one?

Sending a few hundred dollars via money order instead of a cheque or cash could be a lot less conspicuous, cutting down on worries about theft. They also come with tracking numbers on the receipt, so you will know once it has been fulfilled. In addition, the recipient is going to have to sign and show proof of identification before cashing it out, giving extra peace of mind that your money is going to the right place.

You don’t need a bank account.

Since money orders are prepaid with cash, you don’t need a bank account to guarantee fund delivery. And the recipient can cash their money at a variety of different places, without ever setting foot in a bank (but more on that below).

Where Do I Get One?

Getting a money order is easier than you think—in fact, it’s so easy that you can likely walk right around the corner and get one today. There are tons of places you can go, including:

  • Banks and credit unions
  • Convenience stores
  • Canada Post
  • Western Union
  • Grocery stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Check cashing companies
  • Payday loan storefronts (browse our payday loan storefronts)

Even retailers like Walmart offer such services (which is good news if you want to get groceries, household items, and literally anything else you can think of at the same time). No matter where you decide to get one, shop around to ensure you are getting the lowest fees. In a world filled with late charges, overdraft fees, and penalties, every penny counts—especially when it comes to paying bills and settling debts!

If you want an alternative form of payment (or need a quick cash infusion before you go out and get one) My Canada Payday is here to help. Give us a call at any time (604-630-4783) or shoot us an email (getpaid@mycanadapayday.com) to get in touch with our industry-leading customer support team!