Money orders are a prepaid note, similar to a check, that can be made out and used to pay bills or send money securely in the mail. You can buy a money order for a set value from the post office, banks, credit unions, retail stores, and other establishments. When you buy a money order you pay the face value of the money order and usually a small fee. You’ll make out the money order to a payee, and include their name and address. When they cash or deposit the money order, they’ll be required to show an ID. This makes a money order more secure than a check on both ends. The payer is more secure because the money order can’t be cashed by the wrong person and doesn’t include their bank account details. The payee is more secure because the money order is prepaid and can’t bounce like a personal check.
In this article, we cover the ins and outs of the standard expiration rules for all of the major money order providers, including banks, Western Union, MoneyGram, and of course, the good old U.S. Post Office.
How Long Is A Money Order Good For?
How long is a money order good for? Money orders may or may not expire depending on the type of money order used. Here’s how long you have before a money order will expire, organized by money order issuer, and what you can do if you have an expired money order. This info is for payers and payees, i.e., those of you whose name appears on the money order at issue.
- How long until expiration: Money orders don’t expire, but after one year they will begin to lose value (“depreciate.”) Check the depreciation info on the back of your Amscot money order to confirm its specific terms.
- How to check the status of a money order (i.e., whether it’s been cashed): Call the branch where the money order was purchased and provide the Money Order number. Amscot can let you know if the check has cleared their account.
- How to request a refund/replacement: Initiate a Money Order claim. You’ll need to pick up the money order claim form from your local Amscot Branch. Complete the form and send it in with a $12 processing fee and the original Money Order stub (required). If the Money Order has been cashed, you will receive a copy of the front and back and if not, a stop payment will be placed and the Money Order reissued to you after the standard 30 to 45 day processing time.
- How long until expiration: Money orders are valid for one year after purchase. After a year, you can still cash the money order, but you’ll have to pay a service fee. When you cash the money order, the service will be deducted from the face value of the money order. Specific service fees vary depending on the state where you cash your order but are usually around $1.50 per month, so they’ll add up the longer you wait!
- How to check the status of a money order (i.e., whether it’s been cashed): Call MoneyGram’s automated line at (800) 542-3590. You will need to enter your money order number and the exact dollar amount of your money order.
- How to request a refund/replacement:
- Payers: Fill out and submit the Money Order Refund Request (also available in Spanish). The form includes instructions and costs $18 to submit. Use the same form regardless of whether your money order was filled out or not. If the money order hasn’t been cashed, you can recover a refund. If it has been cashed already, MoneyGram will send you a photocopy of it.
- Payees: You can request a refund by filling out the Payee Refund Request Form (also available in Spanish). It costs $18 to submit, and if the money order is cashed after MoneyGram refunds you, you’ll be liable to MoneyGram for the value of the money order, too. You’ll need to know the money order serial number to fill out this form.
- Source: Call to MoneyGram customer service; MoneyGram Money Order FAQs, MoneyGram service forms
3. TD Bank
- How long until expiration: Money orders don’t expire
- How to check the status of a money order (i.e., whether it’s been cashed): Visit a TD Bank branch. You’ll need to bring your receipt proving purchase.
- How to request a refund/replacement: Visit a TD Bank branch to request a refund. Be sure to bring your receipt. If a money order has been lost or stolen, TD Bank can place a stop payment on it immediately, and after 24 hours, they may be able to issue a replacement.
- Source: TD Helps
4. United States Postal Service
- How long until expiration: Postal money orders don’t expire.
- How to check the status of a money order (i.e., whether it’s been cashed): Use the money order inquiry system. You’ll need to enter the money order serial number to look it up.
- How to request a refund/replacement: Go to the Post Office and fill out and submit a PS Form 6401 Money Order Inquiry. It costs $5.95 to submit. If the Post Office determines the status of your money order, they’ll issue you a replacement. (You can also request a replacement if the money order is damaged, but not lost. You’ll need to visit the Post Office and provide the original money order and receipt.)
- Source: USPS Money Orders, USPS Additional Services
5. Western Union
- How long until expiration: Money orders don’t expire, but after one to three years a service fee will apply and be deducted from the value of the money order. Once one to three years have passed, you shouldn’t cash or deposit the money order; it won’t be paid. Instead, you should request a refund. Service fee applicability and conditions are written on the back of the money order.
- How to check the status of a money order (i.e., whether it’s been cashed): Call (800) 999-9660, Western Union automated money order service line. You’ll need the 11 digit serial number and the exact amount of the money order to complete the inquiry.
- How to request a refund:
- If you have the receipt: Complete and sign the money order tracing-refund request on the back of the money order receipt or complete the Money Order Customer Request form. Submit the form to the address listed on the form, by fax to (720) 864-0477, or by email to RMO@westernunion.com. You must include a $15 processing fee.
- If you don’t have the receipt: Print and complete the Money Order Research Request form, have the form notarized, and submit the form along with any documents proving you’re the purchaser to the address listed on the form, by fax to (720) 864-0477, or by email to RMO@westernunion.com. You must include a $30 processing fee and aren’t guaranteed a refund.
- Source: Western Union Money Orders, Western Union Customer Care, WU Do money orders expire
If you have an old money order that you bought, but never filled out, one option is to make it out to yourself and then cash it. If the money order hasn’t expired (and some money orders never expire) then you can go cash or deposit the money order just like any other payee. If your money order has expired and is blank, you might need to fill out a refund request.
Where to Cash a Money Order
If you need to cash (or deposit) a money order before it expires, then your best (and most likely to be free) option is to deposit the money order into your own bank account, wait for it to clear as per your bank’s rules, and then withdraw or use the funds as you see fit.
If you don’t have a bank account to deposit your money order into, how you cash it will depend on which issuer your money order is from. Here’s where to cash money orders from each of the three major issuers:
- MoneyGram –You can cash one of their money orders at many check cashing stores as well as at some retail stores. Find out which specific stores will cash your money order in our article, Where Can I Cash a MoneyGram? At Walmart and These Other Stores.
- USPS — At any Post Office.
- Western Union — You can cash one of their money orders at banks and some retail stores. For a specific list of places that will cash your money order, see our article Where Can I Cash a Western Union Money Order? 10+ Places That Will.
If you have a money order from a minor issuer, like TD Bank or Amscot, you’ll have to visit one of the issuer’s own branches to cash the money order.
Remember, you’ll always need to show an ID when cashing a money order. Most places will require a government-issued, photo ID, and some will also require a second form of ID, which can usually be something less formal, like a credit card that shows your name or a student ID.
For more information about specific places where you can cash all types of money orders, see our article, Where Can I Cash a Money Order? At These 20+ Places.
Where to Buy a Money Order
You can always buy money orders at the U.S. Post Office, and you might be able to by them at your bank or credit union. Many retail stores, like grocers, also sell money orders.
Money orders are usually most expensive at banks. While grocery store prices can vary, they’re often under $1. The Post Office is also affordable and reliable, with fees between $1 and $2 per money order. The highest value you can buy a money order for is $1,000, but at some stores (especially grocery stores) the limits are lower.
To find out all the places that sell money orders and what kind they sell, see our article Where Can I Get a Money Order? At These 47 Places.
Do money orders expire? No, money orders don’t expire exactly. If they’re from the Post Office, they never expire at all. Money orders from Western Union and MoneyGram begin incurring service fees and can’t be cashed after a certain period. But, even after that time period, you can still get your money order refunded (less fees). If you know you won’t be cashing a money order for a long time, it’s best to buy it from the post office. It can be slightly more expensive upfront but will be cheaper in the long run. If you know you’ll cash the money order within a year, go with MoneyGram or Western Union. At many retail stores, you can find their money orders for under $1.