There are several steps involved in purchasing, sending, and cashing a money order. Each step takes time; fortunately, most issuers have consistent processing times, so if you have time-sensitive money order needs, you can plan accordingly.
If you are delivering the money order in person and the recipient is redeeming it for cash, the entire process can realistically be completed in under an hour or two. Mailing a money order can take about a week, and if you need a replacement or refund for the money order, this can take up to 60 days. Below, we explain how long it takes to buy, send, and cash or deposit a money order, as well as how long most major issuers take to refund or replace money orders when necessary.
For further information about money orders, see our full money order FAQ.
How Long Does It Take To Purchase a Money Order?
You can usually buy a money order in a matter of minutes. All you must do to buy a money order is to tell the agent the amount you’d like to purchase and then pay that amount, plus the agent’s purchase fee. Once you’ve purchased the money order, you will simply need to fill it out and sign it before delivering it to the recipient.
Most major banks and all U.S. Postal Service (USPS) locations sell money orders, as do many grocery stores, convenience stores, and general retailers — we list more than 50 places that sell money orders. We also detail what you need to bring when buying a money order.
How Long Does It Take to Mail a Money Order?
If you cannot deliver the money order in person, you can mail it to the recipient. The money order’s arrival time will depend on what shipping service you use when you mail it.
USPS First-Class Mail — the standard shipping method for letter-sized envelopes — will deliver the money order to its destination in one to three business days. If you want to be notified when the money order is delivered, you can select a service like USPS Certified Mail, which also takes around three business days but includes tracking.
If you do not pay for tracking services when mailing the money order, most issuers will allow you to track the status of the money order with the receipt. If you send a money order and the recipient has not cashed it after two to three weeks, you may want to check with them to make sure they received it.
How Long Does a Money Order Take To Clear?
Money orders generally clear almost immediately, and if you (or the person you send a money order to) are redeeming it for cash, you should receive the funds right away. However, some banks may take as long as 24 hours to deposit a money order into your account, especially if you deposit it later in the day. A customer service representative from Citizens Bank notes on the bank’s website that money orders need to be cashed before 10 p.m. in order to count for the same business day.
How Long Does It Take To Replace or Refund a Money Order?
Although you can purchase a new money order at any time if you suspect one you purchased was lost or stolen, it will take most issuers anywhere up to 60 days to confirm the loss or theft of a money order and issue a subsequent replacement or refund.
- Replacement: Seven to 10 business days (plus a few extra days for mailing)
- Refund: Up to 30 days
- Replacement: Generally not available
- Refund: 30 days for lost, stolen, or damaged money orders
- Replacement: Immediately for damaged or spoiled money orders; up to 60 days for lost or stolen money orders
- Refund: Up to 60 days
For more information on how to replace or refund a money order, including the fees involved, see our dedicated research on money order replacement and money order refunds.
How Long Before a Money Order Expires?
Our previous research explains how long it takes money orders from each major issuer to expire.