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What Is a Money Order Machine?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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A money order machine is a computerized device used to print money orders to issue to customers. The United States Postal Service (USPS) issues unique money orders that are made available to the public for purchase. Money order machines may also be found at other authorized vendor locations including certain grocers, check cashing networks and a variety of other retail establishments.

Similar to bank checks, money orders are printed on specially designed paper that is preprinted with unique serial numbers and other pertinent identifying and security information. When this paper is inserted into a money order machine, money orders are created with a precise denomination as requested by the purchaser, as well as space for the purchaser’s information and who the money order will ultimately be paid to. The dispenser also prints a receipt that is attached to the money order, which is intended to be retained by the purchaser.

Whether a money order is created using USPS equipment or created using a machine at another authorized vendor, all money orders have unique features that are strategically placed on the draft. For example, all legitimate money orders bear a unique watermark that can only be seen by holding the money order up to a bright light. Other security features include colored ink and threads that are barely visible, but that are embedded into the paper the money order is printed on.

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Money order machines are operated by an employee where the machine is located. When a customer approaches the sales counter to make a purchase, the employee manually types the denomination requested into a computerized money order machine and prints a money order for the customer. For added security, most machines also require an employee password.

Some authorized vendors offer a more modern money order machine, however. New technology now allows customers to purchase money orders from a self-serve kiosk. Similar to a bank automated teller machine, a modern money order machine allows customers to insert cash or a bank card into a machine to pay for a requested money order amount that can be printed and dispensed through the machine without need of employee assistance.

Though an antique money order machine is of little use for its intended purpose, many people collect these machines just for nostalgia. These are sometimes sold at live auctions, at auction websites and can sometimes be purchased directly from antique dealers. Most are wireless devices that operate using manual printing techniques, which are no longer in use today.

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kentuckycat
Post 10

@titans62 - Well, the major problem you would run into is that if you made your own money orders, you wouldn't have any backing agency. A money order works pretty much like a check. You give it to someone, and they return it to the issuer, and the issuer gives them the money. The main difference is that the money is guaranteed because you already paid for it, so a money order can't bounce. Usually, places that accept money orders aren't places that will give you change, so if you tried to pay your rent with a fake money order that you printed up, there would be no real issuer, and they wouldn't credit your account. (They'd probably call the cops on you, too.)

One of the big problems I heard about recently is that people are finding ways to forge money orders. In that case, they can work. If you get hold of a real USPS money order slip, you could print it up with a certain amount.

Because of this problem, places have been keeping strict track of the money orders they issue. If you ever get a money order from the post office, they will write down the number.

titans62
Post 9

Maybe an odd question, but what is to stop someone from buying their own money order machine and printing up a whole batch of their own money orders?

I have only used a money order one time, but from what I remember, it doesn't seem like it would be that difficult. You might have a problem with getting the paper, but I'm sure someone that was willing to go through the trouble of getting one of the machines would find a way to make their own paper. There isn't any sort of barcode or anything on them to make sure they are good, right? In other words, it isn't like an ATM card where they know right away that the money is available.

The only thing I can really think of is that it is illegal to own or sell a money order machine. Does anyone have any ideas about this?

stl156
Post 8

@jcraig - Very good point about putting the recipient on the money order. Otherwise, like you said, anyone can steal the thing and put their name on it.

As far as people accepting them, I don't really know for sure. Like you alluded to, most of the time people just get money orders for things where they can't use cash and need a guaranteed amount like buying stuff from someone online.

I used to work at a restaurant, and I know we could accept traveler's checks, but I think that is it. I don't think we could take money orders at all. I don't see any reason a place couldn't take them, I think they probably just wouldn't want to have to deal with the trouble of cashing it, and teaching the employees how to deal with it. It would cause some problems when they were cashing out drawers and stuff, too.

jcraig
Post 7

@andee - I think the problem I would have with taking a money order on vacation with me is that you never really know where you are going to need to spend it.

Unless things have changed since the last time I got a money order, which was many, many years ago, you are always supposed to put the name of the place the money order is going on it as soon as possible. If you don't do that, you are basically carrying around a blank check. At least in my opinion, carrying around a large, blank money order would be worse than having a bunch of cash, since as least you can put the cash in different places, so you won't lose it all at once.

On a similar note, do ordinary places accept money orders? I think it would be kind of odd to walk into a fast food restaurant and try to pay with a $6 money order, but even if you did, could they take it?

John57
Post 6

My uncle has an antique shop with all kinds of unique antiques, odds and ends. You never know what you might find when you enter his shop.

A few months ago when I was there he had an antique money order machine that was sitting on the counter close to where customers would pay for their items.

This brought a lot of interest from people, but as far as I know, nobody has bought it yet. If you have ever thought some of the manual machines are kind of slow, this antique money order machine looks painstakingly slow.

It would have served its purpose for that time period though.

I am sure someone will eventually come along who will buy this just because of sentimental reasons. I don't know what kind of price my uncle has on it, or what it would even be worth.

honeybees
Post 5

I had no idea they had self serve machines where you could get your money order printed. In the past I have always waited patiently for an employee to print it off a machine. It always seemed like it took a long time.

Having a self serve machine like that really makes a lot of sense. Sometimes when I purchase something from someone off a site like Craigslist, the seller will request a cashiers check or a money order.

This is usually only if it is a high dollar item and carrying around that much cash would not be safe. I can understand why they make this request. This way they don't have to worry about getting a bad check.

At my local Wal-Mart I still have to go through the customer service counter to get a money order. Maybe they will start putting these self serve money order machines in more of their locations. I bet the clerks behind the counter wouldn't mind this - one less thing for them to do.

andee
Post 4

It has been a long time since I have used a money order. They used to be recommended when you were going on vacation because they were safer to use than carrying cash.

The few times I have purchased one I have either gone to the post office or the customer service desk at my grocery store. An employee behind the counter has always used a money order machine to print it out for me.

Because they can track the money order, you would also be able to get it replaced if it was stolen. If someone steals your cash, you know you are never going to get that replaced.

In a situation like that, paying a small fee to get a money order would be worth it. As long as the merchants you were buying from would accept it, then it would be a safe way to travel.

When a business looks at a money order they know it is just like having cash, so there shouldn't be any problems with that.

I understand the reasons why people use money orders. I just usually don't go to the bother of getting one and take my chances with cash and credit cards.

indemnifyme
Post 3

@JaneAir - I had no idea you could track a money order! I don't use them much though.

I did buy a money order recently though, and I was surprised at how long the whole process took. The money order machine was extremely slow! I don't know if this is normal though. But if so, you would think they could find a way to speed up the process!

JaneAir
Post 2

@Monika - I've used money orders in the past as well. They are quite convenient. As that article said, you can get them at the Post Office, but most grocery stores and convenience stores that have an ATM machine also have a money order machine too.

Money orders are great, but they do have a few drawbacks too. If you lose your money order or the company you send the money order too claims they never got it, it's hard to get it replaced. I had one scary incident like this happen, but luckily I had saved my receipt and the stub from the money order.

The company was able to trace it and I got my money back, but I wouldn't want to have to go through that again!

Monika
Post 1

I used to be a bartender, so I made most of my money in cash. Instead of going to the bank, I used to pretty much get money orders to pay all my bills. It was so much easier than worry about balancing my checking account-once you pay for the money order, your cash is gone and you have the money order in it's place. There is no way you can overdraft!

I preferred to get money order service at one of those self-serve machines. Most Wal-Marts have those machines right in the front of their store. They normally work well and quickly. However, one thing I didn't like is that the machine talks to you and says what the money order amount is.

Sometimes I would get money orders for larger amounts to pay my rent or other bills, and I didn't like the fact that people behind me in line knew I had that much cash on me!

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