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What Is a USPS Money Order?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 16, 2024
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In the U.S., money orders are a kind of payment order that is similar to a cashier's check. Money orders can typically be obtained from a few different places, though they are most commonly issued by banks and the United States Postal Service (USPS). Since money orders require funds to be deposited equal to the value of the order, many consider them to be more secure than personal checks. For this reason, a USPS money order is often used in situations where money is changing hands between people who do not know each other, or where an easy verification of funds is otherwise required. In addition to providing a secure payment method, it is also possible to use a money order to send money through the U.S. mail.

USPS money orders may be obtained from any USPS location, or from a rural route carrier. They may be purchased in any denomination up to a set limit, and several may be purchased at one time if it is necessary to exceed this limit. Additionally, if more than three orders of the maximum dollar amount are purchased in a 24-hour period, valid government-issued identification must be presented. After they have been issued, they may then be used as a replacement for legal tender, or negotiated at a financial institution at any time, as USPS money orders do not expire.

The process of sending a money order is similar to that of having one issued for other purposes. There is a small fee associated with generating and sending the money order, which is based on the amount being sent. It is possible to send a USPS money order to anyone in the U.S. via a domestic money order, or to people around the world using an international money order. While international money orders are limited to a smaller dollar amount, they are otherwise similar to domestic money orders.

There are a variety of other features associated with the USPS money order. They can typically be purchased with cash, debit or credit cards, or even travelers checks. They also contain a number of anti-counterfeiting measures, including watermarks and specialized metal fibers. The potential for USPS money order fraud still exists, however. Care must be taken when accepting a money order from an unfamiliar person, and the USPS encourages people to inform them immediately if a person receives a money order they believe to be counterfeit or otherwise fraudulent.

How to Fill Out a USPS Money Order

When you purchase a USPS money order, the clerk prints out the document with the amount you paid on the front. The USPS allows you to purchase up to $1,000 on a single money order at any location in the United States with a debit card, cash, or traveler's check. You cannot purchase a USPS money order with a credit card or a personal check.

Once you have the printed document in your hands, you are ready to complete the rest of the fields. First, make sure the printed amount matches what you purchased. Once you've confirmed that the amount is correct, follow these steps to fill out a USPS money order.

  • On the document, you will see a field labeled "Pay to the Order Of," which denotes the person or business to which you are issuing the payment. You want to fill this area with clear, legible print immediately to avoid fraud or theft. Use only blue or black ink, and double-check the spelling of the person or business to make sure it's correct.
  • Next, look for the field labeled "From." In this area, fill in your full legal name. If the account you're paying toward is under another name, use that name instead. Again, use only blue or black ink and write very clearly.
  • Sign the money order on the front with your full signature. Don't sign the line on the back of the document. Leave that blank for the person to whom you are sending the USPS money order.
  • Complete the two address fields on the money order. The address field underneath the "Pay to" line is where you write in the person's address receiving the money order. The address field underneath the "From" line is where you write in your current address. Use your mailing address if it's different than your residential address.
  • Fill in the "Memo" line with information to let the recipient know what you are sending in the payment for, such as an account number or a special occasion such as "Birthday" if the money order is a gift.
  • Once the USPS money order is complete, it's a good idea to take a picture of it or make a hard copy. Be sure you keep the receipt portion of the document for your records. This record is the best protection you have if the money order goes missing. The receipt includes a tracking number that allows you to trace it, verify when the recipient cashes or deposits it, and claim a refund if it is lost.

How to Track a USPS Money Order

After sending the USPS money order to the recipient, you might want to confirm that it arrived safely. With a money order purchased through the USPS, you can request a status update by visiting the USPS website and using the online tool for Check Money Order Status. You will need the serial number, post office number, and amount of the money order; all of that information is on your receipt or copy of the document.

If you need a copy of a cashed money order, the process is more complicated. You file your request by completing PS Form 6401, the Money Order Inquiry, and paying a fee. You will need your receipt, the money order number, the amount, and the name and location of the post office where you purchased it to request tracking. The picture or copy you made is also helpful. You must pay a fee for the USPS to track your money order, currently $6.15.

Tracking can take up to 60 days. If the process determines that the money order was cashed or deposited into a bank account, you get a copy of the front and back, which tells you exactly where the money went. You can access a copy of a USPS money order for up to two years after the recipient cashes or deposits it.

Because tracing a USPS money order takes time and money, you might consider waiting two weeks or so before you go through the process to track it. Delays are common, especially on holidays and weekends, and some recipients don't check their mail daily. However, if you suspect any fraud or ill intent, start the process right away.

If the money order is lost or stolen, you can file a report to get a replacement. The process begins with the Money Order Inquiry filed with the USPS, and the investigation can take up to 60 days. Once the money order is confirmed lost or stolen, the USPS charges a $6.95 processing fee to replace it.

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Discussion Comments

By anon240831 — On Jan 16, 2012

@janeair doesn't accept cash? Cash is best - that is what you are trying to get from the other party.

Unfortunately, governments all over are trying to snoop around and extort money from honest working people all in the name of 'terrorism.' I want cash, I accept cash. It is not for me to decide how one gets their cash.

By JessicaLynn — On Sep 14, 2011

@JaneAir - I've never used a USPS money order either. However, I take payments at my job sometimes, and we don't accept cash. A gentlemen came in the other day with a USPS money order and I was surprised at how official it looked!

I could also tell it had several security features, which I think is great. I always like to make sure I'm taking a real check when I take payments!

By JaneAir — On Sep 13, 2011

I worked off tips for the longest time, and money orders were my best friend. I always had cash around, so instead of taking it to the bank and then getting a check, I would just buy a money order instead.

This also prevented me from overdrawing my bank account! As the article pointed out, a money order involves a dollar for dollar exchange. Unlike a check, you can't just write out a money order for any amount. I was able to keep track of my personal finances pretty easily using this method.

However, I must admit, I never used a USPS money order. I usually just bought them at the grocery store. I think if I ever need to get a money order again I'll use the USPS kind though-I think it's awesome they never expire!

By latte31 — On Sep 12, 2011

@Letshearit -I have a vacation property that I often rent out to out of state residents. I always require payment of a deposit along with the rental payments in the form of a money order.

For me there is peace of mind in knowing that the funds are valid and I don’t have to worry about a money order bouncing. When you are doing business transactions like this that involve larger sums of money it is important to be sure of the funds.

I don’t think that it is very inconvenient because you can easily get a money order in a post office or your own bank. I even read that some grocery stores are now selling money orders too.

By letshearit — On Sep 11, 2011

If you need help with your USPS money order when you go to the post office you can just ask someone there how to fill out a money order. I am not very good with filling in forms, as I always seem to forget to check a box, or I leave out something important.

For myself I find that using a post office money order is a great way to pay your bills. Not only is USPS postal money order secure, but you get a great receipt for your records. I just don't feel as confident with my online banking because it seems like I never get any solid proof of where my money is going and that bothers me quite a bit.

By jennythelib — On Sep 10, 2011

I'm not so sure that they take credit cards, but they do take debit and that can be really convenient. I was selling a car to a person once who did not have a local bank, so they couldn't get a cashier's check. But they had a debit card, so they were able to go to the post office and buy a money order. Obviously, the debit card was no use to me personally, and I wasn't about to take a regular personal check - from an out-of-town bank, no less!

By manykitties2 — On Sep 10, 2011

I find that instead of using a USPS money order it's much easier to just do an online money transfer, which can be done through PayPal or your bank's online system. Generally I think you should only need to buy a USPS money order if a seller of something you really want is insistent.

While I think that the USPS money order tracking is a great feature, it can be a bit pricey, especially when you consider you just want to check on its status. You can go to your post office and fill out form 6401 if you really need to see where your USPS money order is and if it has been cashed yet.

By MissDaphne — On Sep 10, 2011

The post office has a good website explaining about USPS money order verification. I won't repeat it all here, and of course it could change, but it has to do with the placement of the watermarks, how the amount it written, etc.

Fraudulent money orders and cashier's checks are a big problem with selling cars, etc., so you want to be really careful.

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