How to cash a money order quickly and securely

Maskot/Getty ImagesYou can verify your money order by calling the issuer at a number you’ve separately confirmed is legitimate.
  • A money order is a method of sending money that’s more secure than a personal check or cash.
  • To cash a money order, you’ll want to confirm the amount that’s been sent, verify that it’s legitimate, find a location, and cash it quickly.
  • Bring proper ID when you cash a money order, and expect to pay a fee in most cases.
  • You can cash a money order at places like Western Union or Moneygram, at some grocery and convenience stores, and at the post office.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

If you are receiving a payment from some someone you don’t know – especially through the mail – you might want to consider a money order rather than taking a personal check or cash payment.

“A money order is a method of sending a prepaid amount of money to somebody,” explains Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful. “It is considered very secure and is an excellent way to send money quickly in situations where a personal check is not appropriate. In some instances, money orders are even preferred to cash in hand.”

However, note that money orders can be cancelled by the sender, making them an appealing tool to be used in scams. The Balance has some tips on verifying your money order, starting with calling the issuer at a number you’ve separately confirmed is legitimate. Also, The Balance recommends cashing a money order directly with the issuer (like Western Union, Moneygram, Walmart, or USPS) if possible, rather than taking it to your bank.

Note that you don’t have to cash a money order – you can also deposit it into a checking account, if you prefer.

How to cash a money order

1. Double check the info on the money order

The first thing to do when you receive a money order is double-check its value to make sure the amount is correct; money orders are prepaid, so you should know in advance how much you’re receiving. Also, make sure the name on the money order matches the name on your ID.

You’ll also want to verify that the money order is legitimate. If you know the sender, this might not be a concern, but if you aren’t completely sure of the person sending it, you’ll want to confirm it is what it’s supposed to be.

2. Research the location where you will cash your money order

Locations include a bank, credit union, grocery store, post office, retail store, or some convenience stores.

Many retail locations have a money transfer outlet like Moneygram or Western Union counter to make the process convenient. Many consumers send money orders from the United States Post Office, and a local post office will cash USPS money orders.

Bring your money order to a location that will cash it, and expect to pay a fee for the service. SmartAsset reports that if you go directly to the place that issued your money order (again, that could be a place like Western Union, Moneygram, Walmart, or USPS) you might be able to minimise your fees.

Going directly to the issuer is also a way to verify the money order – if you cash or deposit a money order that turns out to be fake with your bank, reports The Balance, your bank can reverse the transaction.

If you’re cashing with a bank or credit union where you’re an account holder, you might not have to pay fees at all, and you also might be able to skirt the fees by cashing a USPS money order at a USPS location.

3. Plan to cash your money order in a timely fashion

The longer you hold on to the money order, there’s a chance it can be lost, damaged, or misplaced.

Plus, cashing a money order quickly is a way to protect yourself against possible fraud, since the sender can cancel their money order. If you’ve already cashed it with the issuer, they won’t be able to cancel.

4. Make sure you have proper identification with you to cash the money order

This will include a picture ID: a driver’s licence, passport, or other government-issued ID. You will need an ID to cash a money order.

5. Sign the back of your money order to endorse it

Don’t sign the money order in advance; add a signature to the back of the money order when you are at the counter. “Sign your money order only once you are handing it over to be cashed. Signing it beforehand can be risky if it is stolen,” says Steiner.

6. Understand you will need to pay service fees, which will be deducted from the amount you collect

The fees tend to be low – a few dollars, or a percentage of the total.

7. Put the cash you receive away before you leave the counter, and keep your receipt

Count the money that you receive, and make sure to get and save your receipt.

Put the cash away securely before leaving the location, to keep it safe.

8. Notify the sender that you have successfully cashed their money order

You don’t have to tell them, but you might want to consider updating the sender that your transaction is complete.

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