Sending cash through the mail is prohibited by United States Postal Service guidelines, but some alternative methods of transferring money are safer and more reliable than others. If you are unable to transfer funds electronically, you may deliver them via checks or money orders and use the USPS registry service to insure your funds.
The USPS website describes money orders as a safe method of cash delivery through the mail system. Like checks, money orders are slips of paper on which the giver writes out a certain amount of money for the recipient and pays the amount of money being given to the post office at the time of delivery. The giver signs his or her name on the front, and the recipient then signs his or her name on the back. Money orders are valid in all states and are also accepted in more than 22 other countries.
Personal and Cashier's Checks
While sending personal checks is a more viable option than sending cash, cashier’s checks are safer. This is because cashier’s checks are guaranteed by the giver’s banking institution, while personal checks are only guaranteed by the giver. Because the bank insures the money, no danger exists of the check bouncing. Moreover, because cashier’s checks come with built-in security features, they are less susceptible to fraud than personal checks, which can be taken out of the mail and written over. However, mailing these checks in a padded, bubble-wrapped envelope is an additional protective measure that can prevent their contents from being seen from the inside and may prevent their being stolen.
The Sure Money program is a USPS service whereby you can wire money electronically to certain Latin and South American countries, including Mexico, Peru, Argentina, El Salvador and Honduras. While not universally available in America, this service is offered at approximately 2,800 post offices, at the time of publication. Those sending money are required to present valid photo identification and are allowed to transfer no more than $2,500 per day. USPS guarantees the transfer of this money within 15 minutes of purchase. Sure Money charges a fee of $11, at the time of publication, for amounts less than $750 and $16.50 for transfers between $750 and $1,500. Refunds are available for $26 if the money fails to reach its destination.
Keeping Track of Shipments
When you purchase a money order at the post office, you’re also given a tracking number that lets you know when the order has been received by the intended recipient. Similarly, USPS offers a service called USPS Tracking that allows customers to monitor the progress of their mail at every stage, from departure to delivery. Customers may sign up to be notified when shipments are scanned via text or email. Those using the Sure Money program are eligible for refunds if their money orders don’t arrive within the 15-minute window.
Boze Herrington is a writer and blogger who lives in Kansas City, Mo. His work has been featured in Cracked and "The Atlantic."