A money order is similar to a check, except that you pay for it up front. With a money order, you make it out to whomever you want to pay, and they cash it as they would a regular bank check. While many issuers only accept cash as payment for money orders, in some cases you can buy a money order with a credit card, but you’ll likely pay more than you would if you used cash.
Money order overview
A money order works very differently than a regular bank check. When you write a check from your checking account, the money doesn’t leave your account until the recipient cashes the check. When you purchase a money order, you pay for the entire amount up front, using a guaranteed form of payment such as cash or a transfer from your checking or savings account.
Money orders eliminate one of the key risks associated with using bank checks, which is not having enough funds when the check is cashed. When that happens, you’ll incur an overdraft fee, and the recipient won’t get her money, which is why some people and organizations hesitate to accept personal checks. With a money order, the recipient knows it’s already paid for, and she doesn’t have to rely on the funds being in a checking account when she attempts to cash the check.
Paying for a money order with a credit card
To pay for a money order with a credit card, you’ll usually need to get a cash advance. You’ll pay an additional fee for a cash advance as well as a higher interest rate than you do for conventional credit card charges.
If you buy a money order from a retailer that accepts payment directly from a credit card, your credit card may still classify the transaction as a cash advance, meaning you’ll still pay the cash advance fee and the higher interest rate. The merchant must also have some way of accepting card payments like a card reader.
If you’re not in such a hurry to get cash, start racking up points on these cash-back credit cards and cash out sometime later.
Retailers usually don’t accept payment directly from a credit card when buying a money order because a money order requires guaranteed funds such as cash. But, when available, paying for a money order with a credit card can be useful in an emergency, but it’s not the most efficient or cost-effective use of your money or your credit. You’ll likely fare better by using cash to pay for the money order or by arranging an alternative form of payment such as a third-party payment system.