How to Send Domestic Money Order
- Decide on the money order amount. You can send up to $1,000 in a single order anywhere in the United States.
- Go to any Post Office location.
- Take cash, a debit card, or a traveler’s check. You cannot pay with a credit card.
- Fill out the money order at the counter with a retail associate.
- Pay the dollar value of the money order plus the issuing fee.
- Keep your receipt to track the money order.
Receiving Money Orders – How to Spot a Fake
Before accepting a money order, make sure it’s real. There are several key things to look at to spot a counterfeit money order.
Examine the Paper
Real USPS money orders have specific marks and designs to prevent fraud. If you hold the money order up to the light you should see:
- Watermarks of Ben Franklin on the left side repeat top to bottom (circle 1 on image).
- On the right of the Franklin watermark, a vertical, multicolored thread with the letters “USPS” weaves in and out of the paper to (circle 2 on image).
Check the Dollar Amounts
- If the dollar amount is discolored, it may have been erased, indicating fraud (circle 3 on image).
- Make sure the dollar amount is imprinted twice (circle 4 on image).
- See if the dollar value is too large.
- Domestic money orders cannot be more than $1,000.
- International money orders cannot be more than $700 ($500 for El Salvador or Guyana).
Where to Cash a Money Order
You can cash money orders at a variety of locations. Your best option is usually a bank or credit union that you already have an account at.
Your bank or credit union likely provides this service for free, like when you cash a check. However, you might not be able to get the full amount of the money order immediately. Your bank’s funds availability policy will explain how much money, if any, you can take immediately, and the rest of the funds should be available within a few business days.2
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) money orders, the entire amount must be available within one business day. For other money orders, the first $200 is often available immediately.3
If you’re not close to a branch of your financial institution, you may have a better option. If you belong to a credit union, you can likely go to a closer branch of a different credit union that uses the same shared branching network.
Money Order Issuer
If you don’t have a bank account or you can’t get to a branch, try visiting a location of the money order issuer. The issuer is the organization that prints and backs the money order. For example, you might visit a post office to cash U.S. Postal Service money orders or a Western Union office to cash a Western Union money order.
Working directly with the issuer can help you minimize fees and increase your chances of getting 100% of the cash quickly. However, some offices won’t cash your money order, even if they sell money orders.1
You can also try to cash money orders at retail outlets like check-cashing stores, convenience stores, and grocery stores. In fact, some larger retail stores, especially grocery stores, have Western Union or MoneyGram services available at the customer service desk, so you might be able to cash your money order there for free. If not, a customer service representative can review your options with you.
Depositing Money Orders
If you don’t need 100% of the money order in cash, it’s probably a better idea to deposit the money order in your bank account rather than cashing it. You can get cash later if necessary and, in the meantime, your funds will be safe in the bank.
Use your existing checking or savings account and transfer the money elsewhere if you have other uses for it. If you don’t have an account at a bank or credit union, you can use this money order for your initial account opening deposit. Having a bank account can potentially save you money and time over the long term.
Logistically, depositing a money order is the same as depositing a check. Endorse the back of the money order and list it separately (as a check) on your deposit slip.
Use caution when using your mobile device to deposit money orders. Banks may require you to deliver the original money order to your bank for processing, and many don’t allow mobile money order deposits at all.4 Make sure your bank accepts mobile deposits of money orders before you attempt to make one.
Fees for Cashing Money Orders
Expect to pay a fee when you cash a money order anywhere except your bank. You’ll typically have to pay several dollars in transaction fees or a percentage of the total proceeds. Those fees can add up, especially at check-cashing stores and convenience stores, which often have higher fees and typically don’t make it clear how much they charge.
For example, at most Walmart stores, you can cash a money order issued by MoneyGram for a maximum fee of $4 if the value is $1,000 or less or a maximum fee of $8 if the value is $1,001 to $5,000.5
If you receive more than one or two money orders per month, it’s probably worthwhile to open an account at a bank or credit union—even if they charge monthly maintenance fees—instead of using retailers. Once you’re a customer, you can go to your bank and cash money orders or checks anytime you want without additional charges.