How best to send a large money order from an online bank?
February 24, 2019 5:46 PM   Subscribe

I need to transfer a large amount of money from Massachusetts to Pennsylvennia, and my bank (Simple, so I guess an online startup that provides insured banking services) might not let me send a cashier's check. If they don't, what's the smartest, safest way to send that money via money orders or similar products? This is more than $10K, so I expect there's probably some relevant tax and disclosure stuff to worry about to stay compliant.

I need to send off a deposit for an out of network surgery soon. I bank with an online bank that sent me a strangely resistant response when I asked if they could send a cashier's check. They suggested I first investigate sending a money order or paying with conventional checks (which goes above my regular transfer limit and isn't my surgeon's policy, hence my request).

I sent them a reply explaining why conventional checks won't work, and asked how they'd recommend sending the money order. I can't help but get the feeling cashier's checks might be expensive or inconvenient for Simple so they try to offload it on the customers.

In the past, I've used money orders from the US Post Office and MoneyGram to pay government and municipal fines and fees. With MoneyGram, the location I was at forced me to use cash, which is not realistic for this much money. The post office withdrew from my bank account. Reading online, both services max out at $1,000. I could certainly fill out 15 money orders, but that seems like a massive pain. The fees aren't too bad an issue ($25 isn't crazy on top of what I'm sending), but I want to make sure this is the normal and compliant way to send this much money when a cashier's check isn't available? There's nothing in my background that would imply I'm a shady person with money (save for a name change), but I've heard sending over $10K is significant legally.
posted by MuppetNavy to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Also, on Googling a tiny bit more, it seems a certified check is different from a cashier's check? Hopefully, Simple will clarify if they can send one of those beyond my transfer limit.
posted by MuppetNavy at 5:48 PM on February 24, 2019

Have you checked with your surgeon about just doing a wire transfer? That’s going to be the easiest thing, and if they regularly expect people to send them tens of thousands of dollars they should be capable of receiving a wire transfer.
posted by rockindata at 5:49 PM on February 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

Would a wire transfer go through my bank or a third party company?
posted by MuppetNavy at 5:51 PM on February 24, 2019

Simple says you can received wire transfers but not send them from your account.
posted by bluecore at 5:54 PM on February 24, 2019

Simple isn’t really intended to be the sole account for people with even marginally complex banking lives(if you are moving tens of thousands of dollars across state lines, you have crossed this line). You should head to a local credit union and set up a checking account there. Then link your Simple account with this local checking account. You can transfer up to $10,000 per day and $30,000 per month this way. From there you can do a wire transfer(best), get a cashiers check, etc. from the local credit union account. They will also have actual humans who are interested in helping you do things.
posted by rockindata at 6:40 PM on February 24, 2019 [10 favorites]

I have the same exact issue, except the entity receiving payment insists on one cashier's check for the exact amount owed, so I can't fill out multiple money orders. I am going to a new local bank tomorrow to open an account, and I will transfer funds from my out-of-state bank to them so I can have the new bank issue a cashier's check.
posted by sockermom at 6:42 PM on February 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

> it seems a certified check is different from a cashier's check?

Yes, they are different.

tl;dr: what you are probably going to get—once you get an account with a real bank / credit union—is a cashier's check. You can stop reading here if you don't care about the technical difference.

Cashier's checks, aka "official checks", are when you go to the bank, and the bank takes the money from your account and holds it in escrow, then writes a check from this escrow account to the payee. It's effectively a check written by the bank, drawn on the bank's account—legally it's the bank's obligation. This is what people use for real estate closings, car purchases, and other big expenditures where someone is going to give you a significant and non-recoverable asset/service in exchange for the check (and really wants to be sure it's good).

Certified checks are rare today; I haven't seen one in a long time. Basically it's just a personal check, but you bring it to the bank and a bank officer is supposed to (A) check the signature or otherwise verify your ID, and (B) verify that your account has sufficient funds for the amount of the check. (They may put a hold on your account for that amount, not entirely sure.) And then they stamp or emboss the check and sign it themselves. The difference from a cashier's check is that it's still being drawn on your account; it's not a direct obligation of the bank, they're just vouching for the fact that it's not a forgery and the account had enough money in it to cover the check, at least at the time they certified it.

I haven't seen an actual certified check since before Check 21 happened; I'm not sure if most banks even still use them. They were more of a thing back when checks took longer to clear. I kinda suspect if you showed up with a personal check and asked for one, what the teller is actually going to do is void the check and issue a cashier's check instead, on the assumption most people don't know the difference and that's what they probably want.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:17 PM on February 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

This is more than $10K, so I expect there's probably some relevant tax and disclosure stuff to worry about to stay compliant.

There's nothing in my background that would imply I'm a shady person with money (save for a name change), but I've heard sending over $10K is significant legally.

Financial institutions automatically report cash transactions equal to or greater than $10k to the IRS. There's nothing you, as an individual, have to do. Banks generally also do not run background checks on their customers -- they hold your money for you and do with it whatever you tell them to. They do this for people from all walks of life, even the shady ones.

Simple is pretty much useless unless you absolutely never need anything other than a debit card. As rockindata said, you should open an account with a local credit union and transfer enough money to cover this transaction over, then do a wire transfer or get a cashier's check. Go ahead and order a checkbook while you're there, too -- it'll come in handy occasionally.
posted by bradf at 11:11 PM on February 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I went ahead and applied to a local credit union. Simple now is saying they can send a cashier's check, so maybe I will stick with them. But it'll be nice to have an old fashioned checkbook for when I need those things.
posted by MuppetNavy at 12:21 PM on February 25, 2019

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