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Updated on Monday, November 30, 2020
When comparing a money order versus a cashier’s check, the main differences are the maximum amount allowed for purchase, the associated fees and the locations at which they are available. While both money orders and cashier’s checks offer a secure way for you to make payments, cashier’s checks are typically considered more secure than money orders.
Here’s what you need to know about money orders and cashier’s checks.
- Money order vs. cashier’s check: Key differences
- When to use a money order
- When to use a cashier’s check
- Alternatives to money orders and cashier’s checks
Money order vs. cashier’s check: Key differences
There are more ways to secure a money order than to get a cashier’s check. Money orders also typically boast lower fees than cashier’s checks. Additionally, you don’t have to provide any personal information, such as a bank account number, to get a money order.
Cashier’s checks must be purchased at a financial institution — such as a bank or credit union — and they may include your personal bank account information. You can get a cashier’s check for a much higher amount than a money order, however, to pay for expenses such as a down payment on a car or closing costs on a home purchase.
|Money Order vs. Cashier’s Check|
|Money order||Cashier’s check|
|Cost||Up to $2||Up to $10|
|Where to get one||Convenience stores, big box retailers, grocery stores, post office, check-cashing stores||Bank or credit union|
|Amount maximum||Usually up to $1,000 domestically and $700 internationally||Any maximums are set by the individual financial institution|
|Bank account required?||No||Depends on the financial institution|
With a money order, the cost for purchase is based on the amount of the money order and the location from which you purchase it. For instance, Walmart charges a max fee of $0.88 for a money order, while the U.S. Post Office (USPS) bases its fees on the money order dollar amount. At the USPS, the fee is $1.25 for money orders up to $500; for amounts between $500.01 and $1,000, the fee is $1.75. For postal military money orders issued by military facilities, the fee is $0.45.
Banks also charge varying fees for cashier’s checks, and many may waive those fees for current bank customers.
Where to get them
There are multiple businesses where you can buy money orders, including grocery stores, big box retailers, convenience stores, check-cashing stores and the post office. In contrast, getting a cashier’s check is limited to financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions.
With money orders, if you need to pay more than $1,000 for an item, you typically must purchase more than one money order, which could lead to hefty fees. To purchase a cashier’s check, you may be required to have an account with the financial institution from which you get it. And, unless you are purchasing a cashier’s check for a particularly large amount, the fees could exceed what you would pay to get a money order.
When to use a money order
Money orders are handy if you want to pay a bill and don’t have a bank account. Even if you do have a bank account, using a money order is an option if you don’t want to share your banking information with the person to whom you are sending money. If the person you are paying doesn’t have a bank account, a money order could be easier for them to cash.
Money orders also are a secure way to send money through the mail, as it Is far safer than sending cash, which cannot be traced if your mail is lost. In addition, when you buy a money order, you have a receipt for that purchase in the event of a lost money order. You can cancel the money order or ask for a refund, although you may have to pay a fee for doing so.
When to use a cashier’s check
Cashier’s checks can be a good choice when you need to make a large payment and the recipient requires guaranteed funds. You may use a cashier’s check to make a down payment on a car, to cover for closing costs when purchasing a home or to pay a security deposit on an apartment.
Unlike a personal check, a cashier’s check is guaranteed by the financial institution that issues it, so the funds are available immediately. Cashier’s checks also are considered more secure than money orders, because a cashier’s check contains more security features than found on a money order. For example, these may include a watermark or signatures from two employees with the issuing financial institution.
However, using cashier’s checks can be costly because of their hefty fees. Using a personal check or making online transfers from your bank account or via a payment app can be a free or low-cost alternative for making payments without the hassle or fees of purchasing a cashier’s check.
Alternatives to money orders and cashier’s checks
Both money orders and cashier’s checks offer secure ways to make payments, but there are other options that may be a better fit for your financial needs. This includes:
- Certified checks: Similar to a cashier’s check, certified checks are personal checks you write, and your financial institution verifies your identity, freezes the funds in your account and signs or stamps the check to show it’s certified. Like money orders and cashier’s checks, certified checks also usually incur a fee.
- Prepaid debit cards: Available at many retailers, you can purchase a prepaid debit card in varying amounts to use for making payments. These typically have a fee with them, and some may not be reloadable, meaning you’ll have to purchase another card once you spend the balance.
- Wire transfers: These are great if you need to send money quickly, but they also can be quite expensive to pay for that efficiency. Like money orders, wire transfers are available at some big box retailers, grocery stores and check-cashing stores.
- ACH, or bank, transfers: Many financial institutions offer the ability to transfer money from your bank account to another bank account, so this could be a quick and inexpensive or free way to send money. However, unlike wire transfers, Automated Clearing House (ACH) or bank transfers usually take several days to complete, so this is not a good option if you need to send money fast. Some banks offer same-day transfer services for a fee. Keep in mind that banks may have different rules about how many bank-to-bank transfers they allow per month, although the Federal Reserve did amend broad rules that had previously limited transfers to six per month.
- Personal checks: Writing a personal check is the quickest, easiest and free way to make payments, as long as you have a checking account.