When wanting to send payment without a checking account or credit card, both money orders and cashier’s checks are valid forms of remuneration. Knowing the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of the two can save considerable money, time, and aggravation. Make an informed decision.
Several similarities exist between a cashier’s check and a money order:
The US Federal Reserve determined both are valid forms of payment, or more correctly, demands for payment. For example, a person buys a money order, sends it to a family member who takes it to his bank. He presents the money order and “demands payment,” whether via a cash payment, deposit, or a blend of both.
Both are considered personal check replacements.
Both require full payment of the payable amount at the time of purchase.
Sellers usually charge a purchase fee.
Neither is held against deposit for longer than one business day.
Both are sometimes accepted or denied by vendors or creditors.
Under certain purchase conditions, valid state-issued photo ID may be required.
Both can take up to ten business days before actually “cleared” or found valid.
Both money orders and cashier’s checks are easily forged.
Differences between the two are fewer than the similarities, but they can be equally important:
Only financial institutions sell both money orders and cashier’s checks.
Financial institutions, US Post Offices, and licensed retail outlets, such as gas stations, pawnshops, grocery stores, or certain department stores sell money orders.
Banks, et al., usually charge more for a cashier’s check than for a money order.
Money orders are valid up to $1000.00 each. If the same person purchases more than $3000 on the same day, federal law requires presentation of photo identification.
Cashier’s checks are valid up to $5000.00 each. Photo ID may be required.
Because counterfeiters forge money orders and cashier’s checks, never accept them from anyone in exchange for cash. For example, in a common scam, the counterfeiter/scammer will give a seemingly valid reason why he is not able to cash the check and will offer a small commission to someone who will. Often the money is given to the scammer before the bank notifies you that it did not clear.
The person or entity cashing the forged money order or cashier’s check is financially responsible for repayment of the total check amount–not the sender.
Should the receiving party have any doubt or suspicions, call the issuing agency listed on the form and verify its legitimacy before cashing it. When possible, request proof of identification from the giver and note all information as well as a physical description as detailed as possible. If the issuance is a forgery, the issuing agency will take action from their standpoint. The receiver should immediately contact law enforcement or the counterfeit unit of the nearest Secret Service branch office.
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; Compliance Corner: Second Quarter 2007; “How Banks Can Respond to Counterfeit Cashier’s Checks and Money Order Fraud,” by Kenneth J. Benton, Consumer Regulations Specialist; found at: http://www.philadelphiafed.org/bank-resources/publications/compliance-corner/2007/second-quarter/q2cc1_07.cfm
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; “Risk Management Manual of Examination Policies, Section 8.1: Bank Secrecy Act, Anti-Money Laundering and Office of Foreign Assets Control,” found at: http://www.fdic.gov/regulations/safety/manual/section8-1.html
Federal Trade Commission; FTC Consumer Alert; “Check Overpayment Scams: Seller Beware,” found at: http://ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt014.shtm
Federal Trade Commission; FTC Consumer News-Summer 2002, “Bogus ‘Bonus’ Checks,” found at: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/housing/hcloans/fraud.html