Manufactured Spending

PSA: Please Don’t Buy Money Orders This Way

This past weekend I was at my favorite Walmart store buying money orders. On my last visit, one of the cashiers remarked that another woman had come into the store that week and bough money orders “exactly like you do” – in $2,000 increments, split across five debit cards. I laughed it off when she suggested it may have been my mom and quickly changed the subject. I thought multiple people coming in and buying large quantities of money orders with multiple “debit” cards would make them suspicious, but this weekend I was informed of yet another customer who bought $10,000 in money orders from this location. Except, he bought them $999.30 at a time.

How to buy Walmart Money Orders
Walmart money orders

This individual was splitting his purchase into 10 transactions, which is incredibly tedious and unnecessary, since this particular location allows up to four card swipes per transaction. So, “G”, if you happen to be reading this post (the cashiers told me his name but I’d like to respect his privacy), you don’t need to split your money order purchases into 10 transactions. You can do it in 5 and get out of there much faster. It also arises fewer suspicions if you just opt for five $2,000 transactions and pay the fee in cash. Or go for $1,998.60 if you want to keep things simple.

Anyways, I wanted to bring this up because I know a lot of folks are new to buying money orders and may not be sure about the best way to carry out these transactions. Most Walmart money centers will allow you to pay for your money orders with up to four cards (plus cash), so it really is so much easier if you just ask to purchase two at a time: Either two for $1,000 each or one for $1,000 and another for $998.60.

Not all locations will allow you to do multiple transactions, but almost all will allow multiple payment forms per transaction. As I mentioned a while back, one of my go-to Walmart stores implemented a new rule that restricted money order purchases to one transaction. As a result, I can’t buy more than $2,000 per day at this particular location. On the flip side, this is the only store that allows split payments on bill pay, so I am able to liquidate quite a few Visa gift cards by paying off credit cards at this location. It costs less than money orders (the 3-business day option does, at least) and it saves me a trip to the bank.

I hope this is useful for “G” or anyone else out there who buys money orders in large quantities and isn’t quite sure about how many increments to buy them in. When I started out, I was a bit more careful and hardly ever bought more than $1,000 per visit, let alone per transaction. Those days have changed. Every newbie gets over their initial reservations and before you know it, you’ll be out-spending me on my best day.

How do you approach money order purchases? Does your store allow multiple payment forms across multiple transactions?

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  1. That’s incredible that they allow split transactions so that the $200 cards can be used for larger purchases. Is there anyway to do split payments online? I can’t figure out how to pay for items over $200 online with multiple Visa/MC cards.

  2. My 2 local WMT’s are very cagey. One states only one card per transaction and only one mo per day and the other only allows a single1k per transaction.

    Two weeks ago one cashier at the second store said rules had changed and only allowed one card per mo and only one mo per day but a later visit allowed me to go back to the 1k restriction.

    Am always in awe of the numbers you are allowed.

  3. I have two go&to WMs. One allows $2k per day except one cashier will let me do 2-3 sets of that if no one else is in line. Others all limit to one $2k per day. Fortunately both are in my commute, and I can hit up diff people in morning and evening.
    I once saw a lady pull out a stack of about 30-40 VGCs and just sit and flip through them repeatedly. She was also talking on the phone and distracted, so she got her cards nixed up and couldn’t figure out which ones shed already run. All while half a dozen people were in line. That’s NOT the way to do MS either! Don’t be rude and don’t draw attention to yourself.

  4. I’m not the person in question, but can you please explain WHY do you think that paying $2000 with 4gc + $1.40 in cash for fees is better and why do you think it raises less “suspicion” than doing $1998.60 + $1.40 fees all on GC?

  5. The MO-friendly Kroger stores in my area are very accustomed to me getting $2K using 4 x $500 cards. Some other Krogers in my area looked at me like a criminal when I asked about doing that so I don’t go to those stores.

    I’ve been considering doing more than $2000 at one time and filling out the paperwork just so I don’t take up so much of my time stopping at the stores.

    • Lea, that’s very interesting that your Kroger permits 2k m/o purchases. What part of the country are you in? Here in central virginia, ours have a big sign above the counter limiting them to 1k — but that’s out of date now too, as in fact Kroger now restricts m/o purchases here to just $749.99. (and when you ask why, they say something about “money laundering” concerns)

    • I used to do $1k-$2k as well, but once I got a sense that specific stores were ok with it, I went for the full $10k. It saves a lot of time.

  6. My Walmart allows two $1,000 money orders at one time. That is two $500 gift/debit cards or four $250 cards per money order.. The Galleria Simon Mall here only allows $250 loading per card. ($2 fee for each card.) I pay the 67c fee in cash for each $1,000 money order. Playing games like $999.XX for each confuses the clerks and it is a nuisance to explain it each time.

    • Not sure why you call it playing games to make the total come out to $2000. It seems that the average WM MO customer orders MOs for odd amounts that actually fit the bill they’re paying, which isn’t usually a nice round number. I’ve had more problems when I offer to pay the fee in cash than when I have MOs for a$999.30.


      • With your technique, the suspicion of a “nice round number” then falls on the transaction total. Plenty of people have to pay rent in $500 or $1000 increments.

        That said, you can argue it either way. My chosen method depends on how much change Im carrying that day.

  7. Ariana, I wonder how long does it usually take you to complete the 5 transactions for the total $10k? I always hate it when people line up and there’s this one customer bugs a single WMT representative in the money center for a long long time.

    • It depends on how busy it is. I mostly go on weekends now and oddly, the money center line is practically non-existent. If people do line up behind me, I usually let them go ahead in between transactions.

  8. Im confused how you have $2000 split across 5 cards… Or did she mean 5 “transactions”, each containing 4 cards of $500?

    Also, is $2000/MO a WM specific rule? I asked my local WM what’s the largest I could get and they told me $1000. So I just do an occasional $999.30 to meet minimums here and there.

    Thanks for clarifying!

  9. Two Walmarts I visited specifically asked if it was prepaid gift cards with no name on it and not allowed the transaction. The ones that don’t ask I usually just try to be as stealthy as possible with swiping. One even had a permanent laminated sign. Sigh… the end might be near 🙁

    • Jerry Mandel

      It’s supposed to be $1,000 max per money order and 2 money orders at a time. Per the WM HQ executive, having no name on cards does not mean anything. They are not training their clerks in up-to-date procedure. Please don’t play cute games and make clerks suspicious with odd numbers like $999.30. I tell them up front I will pay the MO fees separately in cash for the $1,000 MOs. How do you use 5 transactions? With me, it’s $500 per card and, therefore, 2 cards per MO.

      • The amount of $999.30 is not a “cute game”, but a way to make the transaction EXACTLY $1000 after fees! People buy MO’s of different amounts all day, so no idea why are you referring to this as suspicious.
        You telling them that you will pay cash for the $0.7 fee is another way of paying, which makes your number of payment methods 3 (2 VGC + cash) for the $1000 MO!
        Your source from the WM HQ is obviously out of touch with what’s going on in the stores, because every cashier in every store has a different personal rule about these things. Not even the loss prevention manager knows what to do!
        Most cashier’s at WM are lazy and rude, some are afraid and some just don’t give a sh*t!

        • To my mind, more people have a justifiable need for MOs in $500 or $1000 increments, than a MO equal to that amount minus the fee.

          But if it works for you, go for it!

  10. Jerry Mandel

    You are so lucky where you live. Now, NO place, including Walmarts, in Dallas, TX area will sell MOs using gift/PIN cards.

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