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A money order is a payment method you may not encounter very often. On those occasions when you need to use one, you want to get it right!

Money orders are handy if you don't have a bank account and need to make a payment, or if you're buying something from a seller who won't accept checks or credit cards.

Money orders are traceable, in case there's ever a dispute over your payment. Filling one out is pretty straightforward — it takes just a few simple steps.

1. Make sure the amount is correct

After you buy a money order (and note, there will be a fee), double-check the amount that's printed on it.

Is it the amount you requested and paid for? If not, you'll want to clear that up immediately with the person who sold you the money order.

2. Write in the recipient's name

Take out a pen and start writing in all of the details. Print in large letters and press hard so that the information is clear and so it would be difficult for a fraudster to change what you've written.

On the line next to "Pay to the Order Of," fill out the name of the person or business you're paying. Be careful to avoid spelling or other errors, because it will be difficult to make changes.

Enter the name of the payee quickly, because if you lose the money order or it's stolen, anyone would be able to cash it.

3. Enter your own info

Your information goes on the blank that asks for "Purchaser's Address." Instead of "purchaser," it might call you the "sender" or "remitter" — or just say "from."

Be sure to use your current address, so the recipient knows where to contact you. You may want to squeeze in your name, too, though that's not always required.

4. Include an account number or note

On the line that says "Payment For/Account No.," write in your account number, if you're paying a bill.

Or, if you're buying something, say from someone on Craigslist, include a short note to remind the seller about what it is you're purchasing. ("Beanie Baby dragon" or "Black Panther comic No. 1.")

5. Sign it

Sign the money on the front, on the line for "Purchaser's Signature." Then, give the front of the money order a once-over, to be sure you didn't make any mistakes or leave anything out.

DO NOT sign the back. That's where the recipient signs the money order when cashing it or putting it in the bank.

(And next time you receive a money order, all it takes is $5 to start investing on your smartphone, with Stash.)

6. Keep the receipt

Tear off the receipt portion of the money order and put it in a place that's safe and that you'll remember. It's your proof of payment.

The information on the receipt will allow you to track the money order through its provider if the recipient ever complains about not being paid.

You can buy money orders from Western Union, or at post offices, supermarkets and retailers such as Walmart and CVS. You can generally get them in any amount under $1,000.