Last updated on February 16th, 2024 at 10:00 am
Using money orders assures that your payment clears and won’t bounce, making it a very reliable form of payment.
At Remitly, we want to make it easy to learn about the best ways to exchange money safely. When sending and using money orders, it’s important to understand how they work and whether or not you need to be aware of expiration dates.
Understanding money orders
So, how do money orders work? Let’s dive into the purpose of money orders, how they’re issued, and the benefits of using them.
What is a money order?
A money order is a safe alternative to using cash or a personal check and is typically issued by a government, postal service, or banking institution. They can be deposited into a bank account just like cash or checks.
They can also be converted into cash and are often used by those who don’t have access to a regular checking account.
Money orders are widely accepted for both business and personal purposes. For example, you can use a money order to pay your rent or your monthly utility bill.
Because a money order is purchased with cash, it can’t bounce, nor will it accrue interest like paying for something with a credit card would.
How money orders are issued
You’ll have to pay a small fee when you purchase a money order. Once you buy it, you will need to fill out the recipient’s name on a form along with the exact amount the recipient will receive.
In most cases, money orders have a maximum limit of $1,000 each, so you’d need to purchase multiple money orders if you need to make a payment larger than that amount.
You may wonder where to get a money order if you need one. These paper payments can be purchased at banks and credit unions, post offices, grocery stores, some convenience stores, and big-box retailers.
Most check cashing stores, banks, and credit unions charge higher fees than a postal money order or one you’d buy at convenience stores.
All money orders include a receipt showing all pertinent information, including the purchase date and a coordinating serial number.
Keep this information handy until the money order clears, just in case there’s a problem with the payment in the future. It’s much more difficult to trace an expired, lost, or stolen money order without a matching receipt.
Benefits of using money orders
If you use a money order, it comes with a variety of benefits, including:
- Money orders are a secure way to receive and send money since they don’t include sensitive information that can be linked or traced back to your bank or credit card account.
- You don’t need a bank account to use a money order. Simply purchase one at your chosen location, pay the fee, and you’re done.
- Most people and businesses widely accept money orders. They can also be issued in one country and cashed in another, making them an extremely flexible and versatile form of payment.
Exploring expiration dates
Do money orders have an expiration date? Let’s examine some of the components of money orders, including whether or not they expire and what happens if you use an expired money order.
Presence of expiration dates
Do money orders expire? Domestic money orders in the United States never expire and don’t accrue interest. A traditional check typically expires after six months, but money orders don’t expire because the purchaser already prepaid them. You won’t see an expiration date listed on a money order, but you will see the date it was issued.
Common practices among issuers
A postal money order never expires, but other issuers, such as banks or retail stores, may charge a fee for money orders that are more than a year old. Western Union charges a fee of $2 per month for money orders older than 12 months, with a maximum fee of $144.
Some banks may also impose similar fees, so it’s important to research the different guidelines of various issuers before you purchase one.
Implications of an expired money order
If an old money order starts to accrue fees over time, there are some things you can do to salvage the value. First, ask the issuer if you can void the money order after a certain time to avoid these fees, and then you can purchase a new one if you need to after you receive a refund.
There are several potential fees and complications associated with an older money order, including:
- Depending on the issuer, monthly fees may start to accrue every month, typically after one year, with the exception of postal money orders.
- Some issuers charge an additional fee to void and/or refund a money order that was already purchased.
- Most refund requests require a receipt for proof of purchase and charge an additional processing fee.
Factors influencing money orders
Different factors can influence money order expiration, including the state where it was issued and the type of money order used.
You may purchase, send, and cash money orders in any state, but some have laws regarding the expiration. Some states have “dormancy laws” that automatically void certain money orders after a certain number of years since they consider them unclaimed property.
Every state has laws regarding expired non-bank money orders, but states like Georgia and California do not have laws about bank-issued money order expirations.
Types of money orders
Traditional paper money orders can be purchased at your local post office, bank, or certain retailers. These money orders include a paper receipt and must be mailed or physically handed to the recipient.
Buying a money order online is typically only available in foreign countries outside the United States, and it works somewhat similarly to an ACH transfer. However, it takes longer for the electronic money order transfer to complete.
What to do if your money order expires
If your money order expires, there are some things you should do to recoup or prevent the loss of your funds.
Check the expiration date
Review the details of your money order and pay close attention to the issue date. While most money orders don’t expire, you could incur fees if the money order isn’t cashed or “cleared” after one year from the original date of issuance. If you discover an expired money order, it’s important to notify the recipient and the issuer right away.
Renewal or replacement options
It’s important to keep your money order receipt since you’ll need it to renew or replace an expired money order. Different issuers have different policies, and some may allow you to request a replacement if you can. Most issuers require you to wait seven to 10 business days for a replacement money order.
Some issuers may charge an extra fee to cover the cost of canceling or replacing a money order. For example, the United States Postal Service (USPS) charges a $6.95 fee to cancel a lost or stolen postal money order. You may cancel and purchase a new money order at your local post office.
Contacting the issuer
Whether it’s lost, old, or expired, it’s vital to contact the issuer right away if you need to handle one of these money order issues. Contact the issuer directly for guidance on the next steps you should take. Provide them with the receipt number and other key details for faster processing so they can help you void or replace the expired money order.
Tips for handling money orders
Avoid money order mishaps by keeping good records, using any money orders you receive promptly, and being aware of issuer policies.
Keep good records
Keep a copy of every money order you purchase or receive until it’s cleared. Always hold onto the receipt for money orders that you purchase, too. Store the information securely in a bank safety deposit box or a fireproof, locking safe at home.
Use money orders promptly
The sooner you cash a money order, the less you’ll need to worry about potential issues arising later. Encourage the recipient to cash a money order you’ve sent them as soon as possible. When you use money orders promptly, you’ll avoid the scenarios mentioned above regarding expired or “old” money orders.
Be aware of policies
Make sure you’re aware of policies for different issuers before you buy a money order. Read the fine print, and don’t be afraid to ask questions of the issuer regarding their policies on lost, stolen, or expired money orders. Keep up to date on the latest state regulations for money orders so you’re aware of the dormancy period in your state.
A money order is an easy, secure way of sending money without writing personal checks, using cash, or using a credit or debit card. This form of payment works by using cash to purchase the money order and then writing it out to the payee like you would a traditional check.
While most money orders don’t expire, they can incur fees if they sit uncashed for too long. Remember the tips from our guide to help you make the right decision whenever you purchase, send, or use a money order.
Remitly offers a faster way to send money to the people you love in over 100 countries. Want to learn more about transferring money? Check out our guide on choosing a money order vs. a wire transfer.