Can You Get a Money Order Online?

By: Alia Hoyt  | 
money transfer sign
It's almost impossible to buy a money order online, but money transfers are fairly easy to find online and do the same thing. tillsonburg/Getty Images

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.


What Is a Money Order?

A money order 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 bank, post office or some grocery stores. There are some limitations to paper money orders, but you can easily work around them.


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 up to $2.90 per order if going to a customer in the U.S.; those being sent internationally cost $49.65 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?


Sending an Online Money Order

The online money order business is a volatile industry. There are a few websites offering online money orders, but most of them are in other countries beside the U.S., and both you and the recipient must be in the country in order to use these services. Other companies advertise online money orders, but actually offer money transfers, which are not the same thing, though they can accomplish the same purpose.

During a money transfer, the sender sends money online using his bank account or credit or debit card to a recipient's bank account, mobile wallet or to a nearby agent. For instance, if you're transferring the money via Western Union, the recipient could pick it up at a Western Union agent (located at many grocery stores, convenience stores, etc.), or get it sent to their mobile wallet or bank account. This transaction can be done online. The fees for the money transfer depend on the amount of the transfer, as well as which country it's going to.


But if you wanted to purchase a money order, Western Union would require you to go in person to an agent and buy it. You could then give or mail the money order to the recipient. The cost of a money order via Western Union is around $1.50 for up to $1,000. In general, buying a money order is cheaper than doing a money transfer online. Be aware that using a credit card to buy a money order or do a money transfer can result in high fees, because it's treated as a cash advance. Some places don't even accept credit card payments for money orders.

Money Gram works in a similar way to Western Union: Transaction fees for online purchases vary depending on where the money is going, the amount sent and whether the person is picking it up or it's being sent to their mobile wallet.

Walmart will also cash a Money Gram money order. Many banks will sell a money order which you need to purchase in person. The cost is around $5. You could also use an app like Xoom to send money, but you would need to use a bank account, credit or debit card in order to do this.


Always Exercise Caution

If you see a company offering online money orders, do a bit of research to make sure it is reliable, especially if they appear to be recently established.

If you're at all unsure, you may want to head down to your local bank, post office or grocery store to buy your money order in person. It might not be as convenient, but it'll cost less, and you won't have to worry about the legitimacy of the transaction.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Bank of America. "Sending Money to Friends and Loved Ones." 2011. (Sept. 29, 2011).
  • Payko. "Payko Help Center." Payko. 2011. (Sept. 29, 2011).
  • Washington Office of the Attorney General. "'Grandparent Scam' Targets Washington Elderly Again." 2011. (Sept. 29, 2011).
  • Pritchard, Jusin. "How Much Does a Money Order Cost?" The Balance. Sept. 7, 2020 (April 4, 2021)