Money orders may not be as popular as they once were, but they should not be considered relics of the past just yet. Money orders can still be purchased at post offices and from companies like Western Union, and there are situations where they are still a reliable, convenient and straightforward way of sending funds or paying bills, but there are a number of reasons why they are rarer today than they were in the past.
A Wealth of Options
Money orders were once the only option available to individuals without bank accounts who could not write a check, but the financial world has changed greatly in recent years. Goods and services are now often purchased online using debit cards, credit cards and internet or app-based payment options, and many companies allow their customers to complete orders by phone. Money orders belong in the old world of paper and cash, and they cannot be used on the phone or internet. Money orders must be presented in person or sent by mail.
Not Suitable for Large Transactions
Money orders provide a reliable and convenient way to pay for minor purchases or send small amounts, but they are not really suitable for more substantial transactions. Post offices will not issue money orders for more than $700, so several money orders must be used when a larger sum is needed. Western Union offers money orders up to $1,000, which should be enough for most transactions.
All That Writing
Filling out a money order can be a time-consuming and frustrating process for those who are more comfortable with a keyboard than they are with a pen. Fitting addresses into the tiny boxes provided can be a real chore, but Western Union allows its customers to enter information online and provides easy steps for filling out a money order. Purchasing a money order from a company like Western Union online also adds some modern convenience to an old-school payment method.
Why Money Orders Still Have a Place
Sending a money order today may seem as outdated as posting a letter, but there are situations where money orders are a good option. Money orders also offer a number of price and convenience advantages that electronic wallets and payment apps do not.
Money orders are a physical rather than an electronic form of payment, which means they do not leave a money trail that can be easily followed. Money orders can be purchased anonymously at Western Union locations and post offices, and they can also be sent incognito by using snail mail. The privacy that people once took for granted is being eroded by the internet and surrendered in return for convenience, but money orders provide a physical link to a simpler time that may be of great value to individuals who would like to avoid prying eyes.
A person buying a money order does not have to download an app, open an account or use a connected device. Most modern payment methods gather information from users that is then used for marketing purposes or sold to third parties, but a handful of currency is all that is needed to buy a money order.
Money orders are paid for upfront, which means they are considered as good as cash in the marketplace. This makes them more acceptable than personal checks in a wide range of situations. Buying a money order is also less expensive than purchasing a cashier’s check from a bank, and using money orders prevents unintended overdrafts and their associated fees.
More Secure Than Cash
Money orders offer both privacy and protection. People who purchase money orders are given a receipt, which can be used to trace the money order or replace a money order that is lost or stolen. This receipt also serves as proof of payment like a cancelled check.
Money orders were introduced by the postmaster general during the U.S. Civil War to foil post office robbers, and they still provide a secure alternative to cash today. They may not be as sophisticated as modern electronic payment methods, but they have an old-school allure and offer a range of benefits that phone and internet options cannot provide.