If you need to send money abroad, you might find yourself with a lot of options, but no real idea how to choose between them all — international wires, specialist services and new transfer methods. Several options make use of a tried-and-tested piece of technology: the postal service, often known these days as “snail mail.”
You can send cash, although it’s not recommended. Alternatively, you could send a check. A third way is an international money order.
MEMO is a popular company offering this service in 20 states. Read on to find out more about them and the service they offer.
MEMO is a well established company, active since 1986, that operates in 20 states¹, mostly in the east of the US, but also in Texas and Montana².
To send a MEMO money order, you’ll need to go into one of their agent locations: you can’t get one online or by phone³. Once you’re there, you pay upfront — unlike a check — and the money order then gets sent to your recipient.
Then it’s up to the recipient to cash it. You can find out if they have done so by calling MEMO’s phone line⁴.
If something goes wrong, they let you request a refund or replacement for your money order: there’s a form you can print online and fill out. It’s easier if you keep your receipt, since you can then fill out a form. Without the receipt you need to get in touch with the customer support. This can only be done by the purchaser of the money order.
Is MEMO easy to cash outside of the States? It depends.
They write on their website that “MEMO money orders can be used anywhere American currency is accepted.” So there’s nothing to stop you sending a MEMO money order overseas, but it will be in US dollars, and the recipient will have to make do with that. MEMO advises that you “coordinate” with your recipient before sending abroad — that’s good advice.
Sending US dollars isn’t really your only option. With specialist international money transfer providers, it’s possible to set up transfers in foreign currencies, which can make things easier. Wise is one such service: you can send money all around the world in many different currencies, always converted at the desirable mid-market rate, so you can be confident you’re getting the best deal on the exchange rate. We’ll cover more on rates and what to pay attention to further on.
It’s a fairly straightforward process to send a money order with MEMO. Be prepared for it to take a while before it arrives, though: of course, it’s dependent on the mail getting there.
- First, you should talk to your recipient. Confirm with them that they’ll be able to cash an international money order sent in dollars. If they can’t, your MEMO money order won’t be much use to them at all.
- If you’re going ahead with it, find a location near you where you can buy one. You can search for one via MEMO’s website.
- Ask for help from an agent to fill out the details correctly and send it.
- You’re done - now your recipient will just have to look out for the money order in the mail, and then go and get it cashed.
MEMO recommends check cashing locations, as well as businesses offering that service, as the best options for cashing one of their money orders.
Internationally, this may end up being harder than it is in the US. Make sure your recipient knows where they can go. If they can’t cash it, it’s just a piece of paper to them.
A money order doesn’t necessarily have to be cashed. Just like a check, the option also exists to pay it into a bank account. But again, your recipient will need to figure out if that’s an option, depending on the service or bank, that they will use.
The fees for a MEMO international money order may vary: different agent locations may charge different fees.
You also need to consider the exchange rate whenever you send money abroad - whether it’s via a money order or not. This often isn’t labeled as a “fee,” but it can end up proving just as expensive. That’s because different providers can offer different exchange rates, which can mean that your dollars are worth a different amount of foreign currency depending on who exchanges them.
So if you send a MEMO money order abroad, you know how many dollars it’s worth, but you won’t know how much it’ll be worth to your recipient - that’ll depend on where and when they cash it.
Generally the rate offered at banks and money exchange locations is not very good. This is because they add a markup on the interbank rate, which they use themselves to buy the currency at. That will be another fee charged on your transaction, yet it’s not clearly stated as such, making it somewhat difficult for the average person to understand the final cost.
The interbank or mid-market exchange rate is the one you’ll see on online on currency converters like Google or XE. And it is actually possible to send money at that rate: a specialist service Wise, for instance, offers it to all its customers transferring money abroad. The only fees by Wise charged are always clearly stated, so you can see exactly what the transfer is worth to both you and the recipient.
For people or businesses that often need to send (or receive) money abroad, Wise also offers a borderless account: you can use this to hold money in 40+ international currencies, and you even get virtual local account details in US and Australian dollars, British pounds and euros - so you can receive money easily in those currencies too. At the time of writing this article, residents of Hawaii and Nevada can not yet get access to local US account details with the borderless account. It’s free to open a borderless account and there aren’t any maintenance fees either. They even offer a debit card, that you can use to spend your money globally.
An international money order has various benefits: it’s more secure than sending cash through the post, for example, because it can be reissued. Money orders are also very popular in some parts of the world, like Latin America. However, there are downsides as well, such as the reliance on the international postal service: making a transfer online is often far quicker, and also means you don’t have to make a special trip into town. You can read a thorough guide to the pros and cons of international money orders here.
However you choose to send your money, good luck on getting a decent deal.
All sources checked 11 December 2018
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