Where to Get a Money Order

Pros and Cons of Banks, Grocery, and Convenience Stores

Money Order Printed
Money orders are available at convenience and grocery stores, as well as banks. Don Murray / Getty Images

Need a money order but not sure where to start? In most towns, you have several choices. Money orders are available at post offices, retail stores, and financial institutions (like your bank or credit union).  Here’s a quick overview of your options along with the pros and cons of each choice.

Retailers: when convenience or cost is the focus, you can get a money order at a number of retail stores.

Grocery stores, big-box stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores often offer money orders at the customer service desk.

Next time you go out for errands, look for a MoneyGram or Western Union logo. Fees to purchase a money order are often around one dollar. Potential sources include Walmart, CVS, K-Mart, Safeway, Kroger stores, Meijer, 7-Eleven, and more.

Bank or credit union: your bank is often a good choice. Expect to pay a few dollars more than you'd pay at a grocery store (banks often charge $5 to $10). However, the fees should be reasonable if you have a checking or savings account there and you only buy money orders rarely. For more frequent purchases, you'll want to find an alternative. The main benefit of a bank or credit union money order is customer service – they’re likely to make tracking the money order easier for you. Note that some banks offer cashier’s checks instead of money orders, but your payee might not care which one you use.

    US Postal Service: USPS money orders are another great option. These money orders are considered to be safe around the world. However, getting a USPS money order can be challenging – not all post offices issue money orders (call ahead to confirm), and you might find yourself waiting in line. USPS money orders cost as little as $1.25.

    Money stores: establishments that deal with money (besides banks and credit unions) also offer money orders. Western Union agents, payday loan shops, and other money transfer services may meet your needs. Sometimes you can even get money orders online, although it is difficult and risky. It’s important to work with a name you and your payee trust – you don’t want to get scammed, pay too much, or have your payee worry about whether or not the money order is legitimate.

    How Much does it Cost?

    Cost varies from location to location, but you can expect to pay between one and ten dollars – retail stores cost less, while banks cost more. Keep in mind that you might have to buy multiple money orders (for example, if you need $3,000 and the maximum money order issue amount is $1,000, you'll need to pay three fees to get three money orders). For more details, read about money order costs and see sample pricing at selected locations.

    How to Buy

    Payment: to buy a money order, you’ll need to pay with cash or a debit card. Because money orders are guaranteed by the issuer, you can’t just write a check or use a credit card (they don’t know if your check will bounce or if you’ll file a chargeback with your card issuer).

    Money order issuers require guaranteed funds.

    Credit card? Some issuers say you can use a credit card, but you’re actually getting a cash advance on your card if you buy a money order – which is expensive. Cash advances come with hefty fees, and credit cards charge high interest rates on those balances.

    Fill it out: to complete a money order, you’ll need to know who it’s payable to. Provide a specific name for the person or organization that you’re paying, and avoid making money orders payable to cash. The process is similar to writing a check.

    Alternative Ways to Pay?

    Is there a better way to make payments? Money orders often do what you need, but they cost money and it can be a hassle to buy them. If a money order is required, you don't have any choice. But if you're using a money order simply because you don't have a checking account, you might want to look into alternatives.

    The first step is to evaluate whether or not it's worth opening a checking account. Banks and credit unions still offer free checking, so you don't necessarily have to pay fees. Even if you end up paying modest fees, a bank account can still save you significant time and money.

    If using a bank isn't an option for you (or you prefer not to work with banks), prepaid card accounts offer some of the same features as checking accounts – without the need to pay bank fees or get approved. In particular, you can pay bills from those accounts, which might mean you'll need fewer money orders in the future (instead you’d make online bill payments).

    Keep that Receipt

    Wherever you get your money order, keep your receipt in a safe place until you're sure you won't need a refund. If the money order goes missing or your plans change, you'll need that receipt to have the money order cancelled. Without it, you might be out of luck (or it'll at least cost a lot more).