What is a USPS Money Order? (with pictures)

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen
Money orders are most commonly issued by banks.
Money orders are most commonly issued by banks.

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.

An international money order in US Dollars (USD) issued by the United States Postal Service.
An international money order in US Dollars (USD) issued by the United States Postal Service.

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.

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Discussion Comments


@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.


@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!


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!


@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.


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.


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!


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.


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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    • Money orders are most commonly issued by banks.
      Money orders are most commonly issued by banks.
    • An international money order in US Dollars (USD) issued by the United States Postal Service.
      An international money order in US Dollars (USD) issued by the United States Postal Service.