What is a good, guaranteed way to send and receive money if you don't have a bank account?
January 17, 2004 9:48 PM   Subscribe

What is a good, guaranteed way to send and receive money if you don't have a bank account? [more]
posted by IshmaelGraves to Work & Money (19 answers total)
 
Sending a money order via insured priority mail?
posted by tomorama at 9:50 PM on January 17, 2004


In the past I've used postal money orders, but I will no longer be doing so after having my finances seriously messed up when the local post office wouldn't cash my mine because didn't have the cash on hand. (It turns out the post office starts off the day with a whopping $40 in the drawer). Western Union works beautifully, but I hate to pay the high fees for wiring money when I don't need the money to move that quickly. What are cashiers' checks, tellers' checks, and certified checks? What is the difference between them? Will I be able to cash them anywhere if I receive one and don't have a bank account? I don't mind paying a reasonable fee but I'd like to avoid the gouging of the check-cashing/payday loan places.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:52 PM on January 17, 2004


err, because they didn't. Damn.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:53 PM on January 17, 2004


Ah, so you've tried my method.
posted by tomorama at 9:53 PM on January 17, 2004


A certified cheque is a check that has had the funds verified and, I believe, locked, prior to the cheque being cut. You should be able to cash one without a bank account as long as you have valid photo id (two pieces, I think).

I think you can also do a bank-to-bank wire transfer but the reciever must have a bank account (I don't think the sender has to).
posted by dobbs at 9:56 PM on January 17, 2004


I forgot to mention: to my knowledge you cannot send a certified cheque without a bank account as essentially the bank is certifying that you have the funds. I could be wrong, but I think teller's check and cashier's check are just synonyms.
posted by dobbs at 10:00 PM on January 17, 2004


Aside from the post office, banks also issue money orders. I'm not sure if you have to have an account to cash them, but most of them require the issuer to have an account in order to get one. And, a bank should be able to cash any money order within reasonable amount at any time of the day. I pay my rent with a money order from my bank.
posted by tomorama at 10:02 PM on January 17, 2004


you can buy money orders lots of places and usually far cheaper than what a bank will charge, for example, try the service counter at your local grocery or drugstore.
posted by quonsar at 11:26 PM on January 17, 2004


You can cash a money order without a bank account. One other possibilities would be American Express traveller checks. To get it to it's destination you could mail it with a signature requirement.
With the travellers check cashing it shouldn't be too difficult. The post office might not be able to do it but they're treated as cash elsewhere.

There's a fee involved with the travelers check but I think it was either very small or waived with my AAA card.
posted by substrate at 11:30 PM on January 17, 2004


if you're using insured priority mail, can't you mail cash? (maybe this is illegal or something?)
posted by andrew cooke at 4:21 AM on January 18, 2004


Be aware that both Western Union and cashier's checks are now seen by many as synonymous with being ripped off. This is due to Western Union scams (by WU's customers, not by WU) and cashier check scams. You will get people who will not accept either as a form of payment, or else will only accept them if you agree to wait until your payment clears before they send your merchandise. It requires a great deal of patience and trust on your part.

It is unwise to mail cash anywhere in the world, including the First World, and illegal in the United States. It is against policy, but not illegal, to send cash via most corporate carriers, such as FedEx or UPS.

Money orders often have a cap on how much they can be worth, and usually must be individualized. That is, you can't just buy a bunch of money orders and fill them out as you need them. You have to buy them for the exact amount, every time, and have the recipient's name added at the time of purchase. At least, this has been my experience.

Traveller's checks are the best option and can usually be deposited in the recipient's bank account like any other check. However, there are sometimes additional fees, particularly if the traveller's check is in a foreign currency. Some traveller's checks require the check purchaser to sign them twice to validate it: this then makes them the equivalent of cash, and therefore they can be stolen and used anonymously like cash.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:02 AM on January 18, 2004


thanks for the info on legality, but why is it unwise to send cash if it's insured to its face value? it doesn't seem any different to buying a gold bar, mailing it, and letting the person at the other end sell the gold (except that currency is no longer related to any gold standard, but that's, hopefully, not practically important).
posted by andrew cooke at 5:21 AM on January 18, 2004


why is it unwise to send cash if it's insured to its face value?

Because if you lose it, and you file a claim against it for insurance, you're going to have to lie. And if you lie, and they find out, you're screwed. You're counting on your own cleverness at getting away with what is against policy and/or the law, when the system is stacked against you: they see it all they time.

The reason it is against the law and policy, in general, is because it would be too easy to launder money if you could just mail it anywhere. Since most successful crime creates the problem of dealing with transfers above $9999—since above that amount, all transactions must be reported to the government, and some institutions will voluntarily report transactions at a lower amount—it's a great way of catching criminals. Witness, Al Capone.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:34 AM on January 18, 2004


ok, but i meant where it wasn't illegal. i read your first post as it being unwise and illegal (if you didn't mean that, i would have expected you to have just said illegal, since it's not normally wise to break the law). i think we got our wires crossed. cheers.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:16 AM on January 18, 2004


Since when is it illegal to mail cash in the United States? I never heard of such a thing. People do it all the time.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:30 AM on January 18, 2004


Since when is it illegal to mail cash in the United States?
and
People do it all the time.

These two are not mutually exclusive. Your grandmother sending you five bucks for your birthday would never be prosecuted.

However, MegoSteve, you are right. I was wrong: it is not illegal to send cash in the mail, just highly discouraged. I went back through all the sources which claimed it is illegal, and they are all unstrustworthy. The USPS site and rules make no mention of sending cash, while listing many other forbidden items.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2004


As an aside, people routinely send cash through registered mail in Japan, and in fact, there's a special class of mail for that. So it's not universally considered a problem.
posted by adamrice at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2004


It is unwise to mail cash anywhere in the world, including the First World, and illegal in the United States.

Most of the overseas record labels I buy from don't take checks or credit cards. For that reason, I have been sending cash overseas through the mail regularly for six or seven years, with not one problem. The cash has always gotten to its destination, even when I sent amounts in excess of a hundred dollars. It's just my personal experience, of course, but I would say that sending moderate amounts of cash through the mail is as safe as sending a regular letter, assuming you take the obvious precautions. Fold the money into a letter, and then mail it in an ordinary security envelope with a regular stamp. If you're really paranoid, hide it behind the tray in a CD case, then mail that. The odds are very good that an ordinary-looking letter or parcel will not be disturbed. Of course, there are countries that even I wouldn't send cash to... but if we're talking about the first world, it's reasonably safe.
posted by vorfeed at 3:47 PM on January 18, 2004


Much obliged, everyone. Next time this comes up I will be able to make a much more informed decision.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:15 PM on January 18, 2004


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