Money orders are generally a safe and reliable payment option because they’re prepaid, don’t include any personal or bank account information, and are traceable.
However, there are several reasons you might want to use an alternative to money orders. Perhaps you’re trying to avoid fees, are unable to buy a money order in person, don’t want to send your payment through the mail, or need to send a larger amount than money orders allow.
There are alternatives to money orders that may work for you in these instances, including cashier’s checks, online money transfers, and prepaid cards.
The best option for you will depend on why you need an alternative to using money orders; we detail your options below.
Find a quick comparison of the money order alternatives in the table below, or scroll to the list for more details.
Note that you can sort the table by clicking the arrows at the top of any column and can jump to the details of a specific payment type by clicking on its name in the first column.
We list the following alternatives, beginning with the overall best based on convenience, fees, and requirements.
Keep in mind that the best solution for you will depend on the type of payment you’re making and why you want to avoid using a money order.
If you typically use money orders to pay monthly expenses like utility bills and rent, the recipient you’re paying likely has an electronic payment system available.
In the case of utilities, you can typically pay your bill on the company’s website using a credit card, debit card, or your bank account and routing numbers.
Electronic payments may incur a small fee (around $2.50 or less), but are often free under certain conditions, which can save you money compared to buying a money order.
For example, some online rent payment systems charge a small fee if you use a credit card but waive the fee if you pay using your bank account and routing numbers.
Even if the payment system you’re using charges a fee, it may be cheaper than getting a money order. Money order fees can be up to $6, depending on the provider (as previously reported).
Additionally, because you can make online payments from your smartphone or computer, you may save time or find them more convenient than buying money orders in person.
Money transfers allow you to send funds to another person’s bank or payment account or send funds for cash pickup at an agent location.
Transfer services are available from various providers, allowing you to find fee-free, high-limit, and no-bank alternatives to money orders, depending on your needs.
For instance, if you and/or the recipient don’t have bank accounts, you can use PayPal to send money (though you’ll both need active PayPal accounts).
You can also make a money transfer either online or in person, providing more flexibility than money orders.
Online options include payment apps like PayPal, Cash App, and Venmo, plus transfer services like Zelle and Xoom. See our previous research for details about sending money online.
You can make in-person transfers at Western Union and MoneyGram agent locations, as well as between Walmart store locations (as previously reported).
Cashier’s checks are similar to money orders in that you pay for them upfront, and they don’t contain personal information like your bank account number.
However, cashier’s checks usually have high amount limits, making them a good alternative to money orders if you need to pay more than $1,000.
Note that many banks do require you to have an account to get a cashier’s check, though some will allow non-customers to pay for a cashier’s check in cash.
See our in-depth comparison of money orders and cashier’s checks.
We also explain where to get a cashier’s check.
Unlike money orders, personal checks require a bank account, but they’re generally a secure and inexpensive way to send money.
You won’t pay any fees to write and send a check — you’ll just need to buy a book of checks from your bank’s check provider if you don’t already have some on hand.
If you don’t already have a bank account, you might want to consider signing up for a checking account with free checks.
Like money orders, prepaid cards are secure and can be anonymous.
You might consider purchasing a prepaid card if you need to pay a friend or family member. If you regularly use money orders for purchases, monthly bills, and rent, prepaid cards can also be a good alternative.
Prepaid cards are reloadable, so you can add money to the card balance rather than buying a money order each time you need to make a payment.
Some prepaid cards charge $4 to $10 for reloads (as previously reported), which may be higher or lower than your usual money order fee, depending on the provider. However, some options — like American Express’ Bluebird and Serve FREE Reloads cards — allow free reloads at participating stores like CVS and Walmart.
For more details, see our list of the best prepaid debit cards.
You can avoid the fees associated with money orders by paying your recipient in cash rather than buying a money order.
However, this method does carry more risk than a money order. Your cash could end up in the wrong hands or lost, especially if you send it through the mail.
Cash is most suitable as an alternative to money orders when you’re making a payment in person, such as when buying an item from a local seller or paying things like permit fees and water bills at the city treasurer’s office.