A money order machine is a computerized device used to print money orders to issue to customers. The United States Postal Service (USPS) issues unique money orders that are made available to the public for purchase. Money order machines may also be found at other authorized vendor locations including certain grocers, check cashing networks and a variety of other retail establishments.
Similar to bank checks, money orders are printed on specially designed paper that is preprinted with unique serial numbers and other pertinent identifying and security information. When this paper is inserted into the machine, money orders are created with a precise denomination as requested by the purchaser, as well as space for the purchaser’s information and who the money order will ultimately be paid to. The dispenser also prints a receipt that is attached to the money order, which is intended to be retained by the purchaser.
Whether a money order is created using USPS equipment or created using a machine at another authorized vendor, all money orders have unique features that are strategically placed on the draft. For example, all legitimate money orders bear a unique watermark that can only be seen by holding the money order up to a bright light. Other security features include colored ink and threads that are barely visible, but that are embedded into the paper the money order is printed on.
Money order machines are operated by an employee where the machine is located. When a customer approaches the sales counter to make a purchase, the employee manually types the denomination requested into the machine and prints a money order for the customer. For added security, most machines also require an employee password.
Some authorized vendors offer a more modern machine, however. New technology now allows customers to purchase money orders from a self-serve kiosk. Similar to a bank automated teller machine, a modern money order machine allows customers to insert cash or a bank card into a machine to pay for a requested money order amount that can be printed and dispensed through the machine without need of employee assistance.
Although an antique money order machine is of little use for its intended purpose, many people collect these machines just for nostalgia. These are sometimes sold at live auctions, at auction websites and can sometimes be purchased directly from antique dealers. Most are wireless devices that operate using manual printing techniques, which are no longer in use today.