We've all seen commercials where a cash-strapped person in dire need of money for bills, bail or some other emergency calls a friend or family member for a quick financial infusion. Typically, a loving but exasperated parental figure drives down to the closest bank or money transfer service and arranges for a money order to be sent to their down-and-out loved one. Cue happy smiles all around as everyone — including the bill collectors — gets the financial assistance they're looking for. Thanks to the internet and some enterprising services, however, it's no longer necessary to leave the house when granting someone a financial windfall. Money orders are now available online, although they're a bit different from the ones you purchase in person.
First off, what is a money order? It is similar to a check, except payment is guaranteed as someone already paid for it using cash, a credit card or a debit card. For people who don't have a bank account, a money order is a safe way to carry a large amount of cash.
Regular money orders can be bought at your local grocery store, bank or post office. There are some limitations to paper money orders, but they're easily worked around. For example, the amount can't exceed $1,000, but you can buy more than one at a time. So, if you need to send $5,000, just purchase five money orders worth a grand apiece. The United States Postal Service charges $1.50 per order if going to a customer in the U.S.; those being sent internationally cost $10.50 per $700. International money orders can't exceed $700 ($500 if being sent to Guyana or El Salvador) [source: USPS].
But what if you don't want to go to the post office? Can you get a money order online?