Money orders and personal checks offer secure ways to pay debts. Both are more secure options than handing over a wad of cash, but the level of protection is different. With a money order, the receiver is assured that the funds will be there when he deposits or cashes the item. With a personal check, the payer can call her bank to stop payment.
To obtain a money order, you provide funds to the financial institution or agent, which then issues you the money order, payable to whomever you designate. The recipient can deposit or cash it at his bank or credit union, or receive the funds at some retail outlets. You'll pay a nominal fee for this service, generally no more than a couple of dollars. Because the cash has already been provided, there’s no danger the item won’t clear. The receipt that you get when you purchase it can also be used to trace the money order to prove it was cashed, or to get a refund if it was lost, but you can't simply stop payment on a money order as you can a personal check.
A personal check is an authorization for the recipient to draw the prescribed funds against your account. You can write a check yourself and, unlike a money order, there are no fees attached. You also can get proof that the check was deposited or cashed from your bank, or stop payment on one that hasn’t yet been presented. However, there’s no guarantee to the recipient that the funds will be there. If he deposits the check and you don’t have enough in your account, you both may be charged a fee by your respective financial institutions.