Money orders might sound like an old-school way to make payments, but people still use them every day. And for good reasons: When it comes to sending small amounts — usually less than $1,000 — money orders can be a convenient way to deliver funds.
Money orders are prepaid, meaning you don’t need a bank account to send them and you never have to worry about a check bouncing on your recipient. They’re also great for international payments and times when you don’t want to share your bank information.
But they’re also just a thin piece of paper, which makes them pretty easy to lose. The fact that money orders are paid in advance only makes that threat worse — for any fraudster able to impersonate your recipient, they’re basically free money.
That’s why it’s important to cancel a money order the second you realize it’s been lost. Here’s everything you need to know about the cancellation process.
Step-by-step guide to cancel a lost money order
Cancelling a money order can be simple and straightforward, as long as you remember a few key steps. Here’s an easy guide:
- Contact the issuer: Once you realize your money order is missing, you should immediately inform the institution that issued it. Be sure to give them as much info as you can, including the date and location of purchase.
- Fill out a request form: This will officially start the cancellation process. Cancellation request forms should be available wherever you got the money order, or online at your issuer’s website. Including a copy of your original receipt is important here, as it holds key info about the payment.
- Submit your request: Submit the form to your issuer, along with the cancellation fee. As you’ll see in the table below, these fees vary by institution.
- Refund vs. reissue: If your money order was not cashed by someone else, your issuer will give you the option to either get a refund or reissue the payment. Since cancellation can take up to two months, it may be too late to make the payment you needed the order for. In that case, a refund is the best option.
Fees to cancel a lost money order
Cancellation fees vary by issuer, which is something to consider when deciding where to fill out your money order. The list below isn’t comprehensive, but it includes many of the most popular issuers. If you don’t see your preferred bank or institution below, you can contact them directly about fees.
|Fees for cancelling a money order|
$15 (with receipt)/$30 (without receipt)
|U.S. Postal Service|
$0 (Service only available in person)
What happens when a lost money order has been cashed?
Unfortunately, the issuer can’t repay you if someone else cashed your lost money order. Your best bet here is to inform law enforcement — recipients have to present a valid form of ID to cash a money order, meaning anyone cashing your money order illegally may also be committing identity theft.
The issuer should be able to give you info about the identity of the person who cashed your money order, or at the very least when and where the order was cashed. Be sure to follow up with them and get these details to the authorities.
Tips to protect your money order
Dealing with the aftermath of a lost money is a headache — and one that can be avoided. A few precautions go a long way, and these easy tips will make the process a lot safer:
- Know your recipient: Because the money is guaranteed in advance, money orders are an easy target for scammers. Never send a money order to someone you’re not familiar with.
- Include your recipient’s name: Never leave the recipient field blank. Be sure you know exactly who you’re sending the money to beforehand, and include that person’s name on the order when it’s issued.
- Check your status: Most issuers offer online tracking services, so you can see when your money order has been deposited.
- Be speedy: If you can, send your money order as soon as you get it. That way, you’ll cut down on the amount of time it can be lost or stolen.
- Consider your alternatives: Are there other payment forms that would be safer? Helpful alternatives include a wire transfer, a personal check or an online payment service. If you’re considering sending money online, here are some of the best services available.
The bottom line
Overall, money orders can be a fast and easy option for making a payment, but only in certain situations.
If you’re without a checking account, sending money international or paying a recipient who won’t accept checks, it’s definitely an option to consider. Still, it’s worth knowing the downsides of relying on a thin sheet of prepaid cash.
Being aware of these risks, and taking steps to prevent them, will make the entire process a lot more convenient.