Money orders provide a secured alternative for sending money that guarantees the recipient that the funds are indeed available, while also providing the sender some degree of security that the funds will not be stolen as they provide a receipt of the transaction. They are more secure than personal checks and less costly than cashier’s checks.
You can buy a money order at CVS for $1.25. This is one of the highest fees compared to the lowest at Meijer ($0.65), and the average at Walmart ($0.88). CVS money orders are limited to $500 so if you need an amount greater than that, you will need to buy multiple, which will result in multiple fees.
The process is simple. You simply head to a CVS location during regular business hours. This makes it a very convenient option as many places have 24-hour locations.
So, if you’re in a pinch and need a money order really early, really late, or even in the middle of the night and you have a 24-hour CVS near you, then this is a good place to go.
In most cases, you will just go to the regular cashier in the front of the store and ask them for a money order.
Keep in mind that money orders must be purchased in cash at CVS; credit cards and debit cards are not allowed.
In order to get a money order from CVS, you will need to provide proper identification, so make sure you bring your government-issued identification card with you.
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CVS Money Order Limit
The limit for CVS money orders is $500. Some other places, such as banks, may issue money orders for amounts up to $1,000. However, if you need a money order for an amount greater than $500, you can still get it through CVS; you will just need to purchase multiple money orders. Keep in mind though, that this results in additional fees as well.
For example, you would need to purchase three money orders if you needed $1,200. You would need to purchase two money orders in the amount of $500 each and then one money order for the residual amount of $200. Money orders don’t need to be purchased in round or flat amounts. You can, for instance, get a money order for $47.48.
The fee is $1.25 per money order. Therefore, in the instance of the $1,200, you would have to pay three times $1.25, or $3.75. Any amount less than or equal to $500 would just incur the one fee of $1.25.
Other places that issue money orders might accept alternative payment methods. However, getting a money order through MoneyGram or Western Union at CVS requires that you pay in cash. This applies to both the amount in which you’re getting the money order, as well as the associated fees.
How to Fill Out a Money Order
There are a few different fields that you will need to fill out before using the money order, whether that be mailing it or giving it to the payee. To be safe, it’s a good idea to actually fill the money order out before you even leave the store. If you were to lose it without having filled it out yet and someone found it with the payee blank, they could easily cash that money order.
Before You go: It’s best then to have all the information you need for the payee available and ready before you even go to get the money order issued. While one of the benefits of a money order is that it provides security, there’s really no way to prove it was issued to someone other than who it was intended for.
Step 1: The money order will come with the date and the amount pre-printed on it. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about that. So, the first thing you need to do is fill in the “Pay to the order of” line. This is the name of the person or business that you will be paying. Once you’ve filled this out, no one else but the payee can cash it. At this point, it’s easier to have it reissued if it’s lost or stolen.
Step 2: The second item to fill out is the “purchaser’s address” line. You are the purchaser, so you will want to put your address on this line. This isn’t something that is verified or anything when the payee goes to cash the money order. Instead, it is more security if the money order is lost or stolen. If someone happens to turn the money order in, it provides a way of contacting you. You can just use your regular mailing address.
Step 3: The next item to fill out on the money order is the “payment for/account number” line. This is a way for you to ensure that your payment gets properly credited to you. For example, if you’re using the money to pay an electric, water, or other utility bill, you’d want to put your account number thereto ensure the payment gets applied to your account.
If you don’t have an account number: you can always just put your name on this line as a way for the payee to quickly and easily distinguish what the payment is for. This, again, provides you with an added layer of security when using money orders.
Step 4: The final required field to fill out on the front of the money order is the “purchaser’s signature” line. Again, you are the purchaser, so you will want to put your signature there as verification that you requested this money order and it is to be paid as issued.
Tip: It is recommended to write what the payment is for on the front of the money order
If you’re using it to pay for your mortgage payment for January, you could write January rent somewhere on the front. There isn’t a specific field for this, but it could prove useful in the future if you ever need to request a copy of the money order for your records.
The money order is perforated and will have two portions. The first portion is the part that is mentioned above. This is the actual money order that you will give to the payee. It is the financial instrument through which they’ll get paid.
The second piece is your receipt. Your receipt includes some of the same reference numbers from the money order, as well as a line for you to write what the payment was for in case you need to reference it in the future.
If you flip the money order over, on the actual money order itself, there is a line that says “Endorse above this line.” You don’t want to sign here. This is where the payee will sign when they go to deposit or cash the money order.
The other side of your receipt will have quite a bit more information, but you won’t need to use it unless the money order is lost or stolen. This is quite a lengthy process, but it provides a telephone number for you to call, as well as basically the claim form you will need to start the process of having the money order reissued if the recipient says they never received it, or if it’s lost or stolen. This is how they’ll research for you.
Cashing Money Orders
CVS does not cash money orders and you cannot use money orders like cash. Instead, you will need to go to a bank or check cashing store to cash your money order. Alternatively, some stores like Walmart and some grocery stores will cash your money orders. Some places will charge a fee to cash your money orders.
The following table provides a comparison of the places that cash money orders as well as some relevant details for if you decide to use them:
|ACE America’s Cash Express||None||About 3%|
|Amscot||None||1.5% to 9.9%|
|Check Into Cash||Varies by location||3% to 5%|
|Citibank||$5,000||Free if issued by Citibank|
|Money Mart||Varies by location||About 3%|
|Regions Bank||$1,000||5% ($5 minimum)|
|TD Bank||Varies by location||$10|
|U.S. Bank||None||$7 for money orders over $50|
|USPS||None||Free if issued by USPS|
|Walmart||$5,000||$3 up to $1,000 $6 for $1,000 to $5,000|
|Winco||$1,000||$5 to $10|
Based on this table, you can see that it’s usually most cost-effective to cash your money order at the place where it was issued, if possible; such as the specific bank or the United States Postal Service. The best place to cash your money order will also depend on the amount of the money order.
For small amounts, Amscot offers the lowest percentage fee. However, that fee increases significantly based on the amount you’re cashing. Generally, Walmart offers the most cost-effective way to cash your money orders since it’s a flat fee.
The accessibility, number of locations, and hours of Walmart also make it an attractive option. On the downside, much like all areas of Walmart, you’ll usually have to wait in long lines to receive service since they’re almost always busy.
Another option to keep in mind is that it’s free to deposit your money order, as if it were a check, if you have a bank account anywhere. If you don’t need the money right away, it might be better to deposit the money and then just withdraw it.
Depending on your banking account and relationship, the funds may be immediately available too since they’re guaranteed funds.
Sending and Tracking Money Order
After properly filling it out, you would send a CVS money order the same way that you would a regular personal check. As long as you save your receipt, you can send it by mail with peace of mind knowing that it’s secured.
It can be a lengthy process to have it reissued if it is lost, stolen, or the payee says they never receive it, but it is possible. If you’re completing your transaction in person, you can present it as if you were using a personal check also.
Although you signed it, there’s really no account or anything to verify your identity against, so nothing else is necessary. They will have verified your identity when you purchased the money order.
Whether you are the sender or recipient of a money order, you can track it either online or over the phone using the issuing provider. For example, you would go to moneygram.com if MoneyGram issued your money order.
The issuer will display prominently on the front of the money order. If you need to call instead, you will find the phone number on the receipt portion of your money order.
Tracking information is extremely limited. All you will really be able to find out is whether or not the money order has been cashed yet. The automated number to confirm whether your money order has been cashed is 1-800-542-3590.
In order to verify the status, you will need the money order number from the receipt and the exact dollar amount.
Alternative Stores to Get Money Orders
The only place you should probably avoid buying a money order is 7 eleven. They are very convenient to find because they’re everywhere, but the downside is that they charge by the % of money order amount.
While most stores charge around $1.00 money order fee, if your money order amount is high you could end up paying $15+ at 7-Eleven per money order.
The following table compares the fees, limits, and other information you should know about obtaining a money order from places other than CVS.
|Banks||Bank Itself||Varies, sometimes free for account holders||Typically, $1,000|
|Credit Unions||Credit Union Itself||Varies||Typically, $1,000, some with daily limits|
|Check Cashing Stores||Check Cashing Store Itself||Varies, sometimes free||Varies|
|Convenience Stores and Gas Stations||MoneyGram or Western Union||Varies, sometimes % of money order amount||Typically, $500|
|Discount Stores and Superstores||MoneyGram or Western Union||Varies||Varies, some with daily limits|
|Grocery Stores||MoneyGram or Western Union||Varies||Varies|
|Pharmacies||MoneyGram or Western Union||Varies||Typically, $500|
|United States Postal Service (USPS)||United States Postal Service (USPS)||$1.20 to $1.60|
|7-Eleven||65 cents/1%–3% percent|
|Rite Aid||99 cents|
|United States Postal Service||$1.20–$2.60|
Know this when purchasing money orders at places other than CVS:
- Most banks will allow you to purchase a money order as a bank withdrawal. This means that they will just deduct the amount from your bank account balance. This can be a safe alternative if you’re concerned about carrying a lot of cash around with you.
- Some banks offer money orders for free to their members with certain kinds of accounts. For example, BB&T members with Elite Gold or Elite Work accounts receive money orders for free.
- Other banks require you to have an account with them in order to request a money order, such as Wells Fargo. The same is true for some credit unions.
- Some institutions limit the total amount of money orders you can request in a day. For example, Navy Federal Credit Union uses Western Union to issue money orders in increments of up to $1,000. However, they have a daily limit of $10,000 for money orders. Additionally, you must have an account with them to get a money order from them.
- Some places, like Amscot, will issue money orders for free to ensure that they always have cash on hand for their other transactions such as cash advances and check cashing services.
- The most you should pay in service fees for a money order is generally about $2 per money order.
Get Money Order for Free
The most reliable place that anyone can get a money order for free is Amscot. Amscot is a financial services institution that also provides check cashing, bill payment, and cash advance services. Because of this, they always need to have cash on hand for these types of transactions.
Therefore, it is in their interest to offer money orders for free as it helps ensure a consistent flow of cash for their other business.
Stores like Walmart and CVS use MoneyGram or Western Union as the issuer of their money orders, but Amscot is able to issue their own as a financial services institution. But what if you don’t have an Amscot near you?
The other place to get money orders for free are banks. However, this often requires that you are not only a member of that bank, but that you have a special type of account with that bank.
Compared to CVS, banks can also often issue money orders in increments of up to $1,000 rather than $500. So, when they do charge fees, it could be cheaper because you will require less of them.