Money orders are a more secure payment method when somebody needs to mail you a personal check or cash. If you’ve never cashed a money order before, you might be asking, “How do I cash a money order near me?”
When you have a family member that needs to send you money or you need to accept payment from a business customer, money orders are easy to cash. And, you can even cash them for free!
Who Issues Money Orders?
Picking the best place to cash your money order depend on who issues it.
The most common money order issuers include:
- Western Union
- U.S. Post Offices
If you get a money order from one of these issuing locations, you can almost always cash the money order at your local branch hassle-free. The lone exception is gas stations which only issue money orders.
Not every place that issues money orders cash them. Even if you have a Western Union money order, you might not be able to cash it at just any Western Union location. Some agents don’t keep enough cash on hand and others don’t offer cashing services period.
Some businesses only cash “in-house” money orders issued by a sister location. Walmart and certain grocery stores are prime examples of only cashing “in-house” money orders. Other businesses cash a money order regardless of where it originates from, but might charge a higher fee.
To help you quickly find the best place to cash a money order, we have several recommendations below.
7 Best Places to Cash a Money Order Near You
We’ll start with the places that are most likely to cash a money order first. As you’ll see, you should have at least one location in your town that cashes money orders.
Some places will cash your money order for free, while other businesses may charge a $5 to $8 fee.
Don’t forget that gas stations won’t cash a money order, they only issue them.
Your Bank or Credit Union
Keeping an account at your local bank or credit union might be the easiest and affordable option. Many banks also cash money orders for free for current account holders. Plus, banks have a giant vault full of money and should be able to pay the full amount.
If you’re a non-bank customer, you can still cash a money order at most banks, but you will have to pay a small fee. It’s also common practice for banks to only cash money orders with a balance of up to $500 for non-customers. To cash large money orders, you will need to open an account or visit a different business.
Tip: If you anticipate cashing money orders on a regular basis, opening a local bank or credit union account can be your most affordable option.
The Post Office
When you’re not going to your local bank to cash a money order, your next best option is cashing it at the money order issuer. Money orders issued by the US Postal Service (USPS) might be the most secure and convenient option. And, it’s free to cash every postal money order at any U.S. Post Office!
The sender can write the money order and instantly put it in today’s mail. If you get the money order issued elsewhere, the sender still needs to find a mailbox or post office to mail you the money order.
As long as the post office branch has enough money on hand to cash your money order, you can do so for free. You may want to call ahead if you have a large postal money order to cash.
Also, the Postal Service only cashes USPS-issued money orders.
Western Union is one of the largest money transfer services that complete more than 32 transactions a second! If your money order was issued by Western Union, most Western Union agents will cash it but you might have to pay a cashing fee.
Like the Postal Service, it’s not a bad idea to call ahead if you have a large balance to cash as not every business keeps that much extra cash on hand.
You can quickly find your nearby Western Union agent on their website or even search the web for “Western Union agents near me.” In my town of 8,000 people, there are four different places that cash Western Union money orders.
Depending on how soon you need the cash, Western Union can also electronically send you the money to a local store, your bank account, or even a debit or credit card. But, this convenience can be more expensive for the sender.
The other “household name” for money orders is MoneyGram. You should have no problem finding a MoneyGram agent in your local area too. In my local town, there were three MoneyGram agents compared to four Western Union agents. Being able to cash a MoneyGram money order isn’t a problem and their fees can sometimes be lower than the competition.
Although you don’t need to go to a MoneyGram agent to cash a MoneyGram money order it’s best to try these places first. You might be able to avoid money order cashing fees.
Roughly 90% of Americans live within 15 minutes of a Walmart, so this can be another secure and convenient option. The only stipulation is that Walmart only cashes Walmart-issued money orders, similar to the US Postal Service.
You can expect to pay $3 to cash a money order with a balance up to $1,000.
Walmart money orders are issued through MoneyGram so you can visit a MoneyGram agent if visiting your local Walmart isn’t a convenient cashing option.
Your next best option for affordability and availability of funds is visiting your local grocery store. The cashing fees are usually lower than other cashing places. While grocery stores don’t have as much cash on hand as a bank, they usually have more than retail stores or pharmacies.
If your money order is issued by Western Union or MoneyGram, look for a grocery store partner online first. Not every grocery store cashes money orders, so taking a few seconds to find a participating location is a worth the effort.
Visit the grocery store customer service desk to cash your money order, not the cashier where you buy your groceries.
The following national grocery store chains don’t cash money orders:
- BJ’s Wholesale
- Dollar General
- Trader Joe’s
- Sam’s Club
- Whole Foods
Like Walmart, some grocery stores only cash money orders issued by a sister location. This closed-loop system might be an inconvenience but it helps reduce the grocery store’s liability to money order fraud. And, you can enjoy lower cashing fees and higher money order balances as a reward.
Save More on Groceries: Did you know you can scan your grocery receipts to get extra cash back every time you visit the grocery store?
Check Cashing Services
When all else fails, you can also go to a local check cashing service. They are the most likely to cash a money order from any issuer, but they can also be the most expensive. You will need to check with your local check cashing business to see what the cashing fee will be. It can either be a fixed fee or a percentage of the money order balance.
Some of the nation’s largest check cashing services include:
You might also have a local check cashing service that operates in your town. These places should have similar money order cashing policies as the recommendations listed above.
How to Cash a Money Order
Cashing a money order is as simple as cashing a personal check. You only need to follow these simple steps:
- Sign the back of the money order check
- Show valid picture id card
- Request cash payment or account deposit
Your Photo ID Must Match the Name on the Money Order
Regardless of where you cash your money order, you need to bring a government-issued photo id to verify your identity. The only person that can cash a money order is the designated name in the “Pay to the Order Of” field.
If the money order is addressed to your business, you may have to furnish a bank account statement too. Check with your local bank account for their official policy first.
Make sure the sender writes the same name on the money order as it appears on your photo id card. If the money order also has an address field, make sure your photo id shares the same address.
Some examples of acceptable photo id cards include:
- Driver’s License
- Military ID
- Permanent Resident Card
You Must Pay a Fee for Each Money Order
Most money orders have a maximum balance of $1,000. So if you need to be paid $1,500 via money order, the sender needs to purchase a $1,000 and a $500 money order. This means they will need to pay two separate origination fees.
If you need to pay a cashing fee, you will also have to pay two separate cashing fees. For example, you might have to pay $3 to cash each money order.
Cash Payment or Bank Deposit?
Where you cash a money order goes beyond the cashing fees. You also need to decide if you want to be paid in dollar bills or not. You might not feel comfortable walking around with $1,000 worth of cash in your wallet until you get home or go to the bank.
If you don’t need the money right away, a safer and more convenient option is cashing the money order at your personal bank. The money order balance is safely stored into your bank account until you’re ready to spend the money.
Requesting cash payment isn’t a bad idea either, especially if you use the cash envelope system. If you cash a money order at the grocery store, the proceeds can pay for your grocery store visit. Other cashing services also partner with bill pay services so you can immediately pay your utility bill or phone bill in-person.
What Happens If You Lose a Money Order?
If your money order is lost or stolen, there’s still a chance you can get a refund. But, you and the sender need to act quickly. Refunds won’t be issued if the money order has been cashed by somebody else.
The sender needs to keep the money order receipt that contains the serial number. Without this serial number, you still might not be able to get a refund.
To issue a refund, the money fund issuer (Western Union, MoneyGram, etc.) needs the serial number to track the money order status and verify it hasn’t been cashed yet. It’s best to go to the issuing location because the sender needs to fill out special paperwork and pay a cancellation fee that can cost up to $30.
It can also take up to 60 days for the issuer to investigate the refund request, so you might have to practice patience.
Once the original money order has been refunded, the sender will need to purchase a new money order. If you’re reimbursing him for these fees, that means you’ll have to pay the origination fee twice.
Tips to Avoid Money Order Fraud
Money orders are a more secure payment than cash or personal checks, but there are still a few good practices you should follow.
Only Accept Money Order from People You Trust
If you ever sell anything on Craigslist, you’ve most likely seen this disclaimer at the bottom of every post: “Beware wiring (e.g. Western Union), cashier checks, money orders, shipping.”
For ultimate safety, you should only accept money orders payments from:
- Local Customers
As an example, you might only accept money orders mailed to you from friends and family.
If you run a business, you may only accept money orders for in-person payments so you can easily contact the customer if there’s a payment issue or they spell your name incorrectly. For local customers, make sure you take a copy of their photo id and exchange contact information in case an issue happens.
Accepting out-of-state money orders can be risky because you’ve never met the person and the customer can be impersonating somebody else.
Only Provide Services to the Customer Once the Money Order is Cashed
When you accept money orders as payment for your business ventures or side hustles, only provide a service once you have cash in hand. Your customer is going to be less likely to give you a fake money order if the payment needs to clear before you hold up your end of the bargain.
Look for Security Features on a Money Order
Each money order company uses their own anti-fraud security features to prevent money order fraud. Some common security features include:
- Multi-colored reflective threads
- Machine printed dollar amount (not handwritten with a pen or pencil)
- Serial Number and Issue Date are machine printed too
Money orders have a similar appearance to bank-issued cashier’s checks, not a handwritten personal check. If it looks like the money order has more handwriting than it should, it’s probably a fake.
Regarding watermarks, you need to hold the money order up to the light to see it. If the watermark is visible without holding it up against the light, this is a potential warning sign.
Each issuer leave their own unique mark. Postal service money orders include images of Ben Franklin and the letters “USPS.” You can also see MoneyGram and Western Union watermarks by shifting the money order in the light at different angles.
Look for Erased Information or Discoloration
Searching for these two characteristics is easier if you handle money orders on a regular basis. Just like you know how a $20 dollar bill should look and feel, a money order should have a uniform appearance.
If the ink is unusually lighter or darker in some areas than others or the ink has bled, it can be a fake. If it also looks like the serial number or dollar value has been adjusted, you should also call the money order issuer to verify the validity.
When in doubt, you can also look for examples of legitimate money orders online to compare your copy to these templates.
Cash Within a Year of the Issue Date
You should always try to cash your money order as soon as possible. Although some money orders never expire, others expire one year after the issue date. If you wait a year to cash out, you might have to pay a service fee to cash the money order a year after the issue date too.
The easiest way to see if your money order expires is read any terms and conditions on the back side.
Cashing your money order ASAP also guarantees you receive your funds. If you wait too long, the sender might request a refund to get their money back.
Never Send Money Back to the Sender
Another common money order scam is for the sender to ask you to mail or digitally transfer a portion of the money order back to them. This is usually a money laundering scam. Before you agree to accept a money order from a stranger or new customer, make an agreement that you will not offer a refund.
You might encounter this scam if you own rental property. The future tenant unexpectedly bails after sending you a money order for the security deposit and rent. They might let you keep a portion of the payment, but request the security deposit to be refunded. Before you offer a refund, you might make sure your bank clears the money order or talk to a personal lawyer.
Call the Money Order Issuer to Verify the Funds
It can takes days or weeks for a money order to clear and report it as “cashed,” even though you receive the funds immediately.
When you receive a money order, you can always verify the balance with the money order issuer online or by phone:
- USPS: 1-866-459-7852
- Western Union: 1-800-999-9660
- MoneyGram: 1-800-542-3590
A single domestic money order can never be larger than $1,000. If a money order has a balance great than $1,000, it’s probably fake.
International money orders can usually have a maximum balance of $700. If it’s larger than $700, you’ll want to verify the balance with the issuer.
Money orders are an easy and secure payment method between friends, family, and customers. You will always have the best experience cashing money orders by visiting the same issuer the buyer used. Doing so, helps you receive your money sooner and avoid expensive money order cashing fees.
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