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how to fill out a money order

Despite the ease it provides, paying in cash isn’t always the most secure form of payment. Instead, you may be asked to pay with a money order. You can get a money order almost anywhere, like banks, post offices and even Walmart. After that, it’s as easy as filling out the order, keeping the receipt and handing it over to the person you’re paying. Let’s take a closer look at the process of filling out a money order.

How to Buy a Money Order

Before you can fill out a money order, you have to buy one. Again, it is pretty easy to find a money order. While you might want to head immediately to your nearest bank, banks often charge a significant fee for money orders. It’s not unusual for banks and credit unions to charge between $5 and $10.

You can find lower fees at most convenience stores and grocery stores. For example, Walmart charges $1 or less. You can also head to a USPS location to buy a money order for $1.20 (on amounts up to $500) or $1.65 (on amounts up to $1,000). You can also buy money orders from Western Union and MoneyGram.

How to Fill out a Money Order

how to fill out a money order

Filling out a money order is a straightforward step-by-step process. Just follow these instructions and you’ll be ready to send your money.

  1. Amount. When you purchase your money order, you have to specify the amount you’re sending. The clerk will printed that amount on the order. You don’t have to write the amount of the money order in, but you should make sure it’s correct.
  2. Payee. The first line of the money order usually reads “Pay to the order of” or “Pay to.” Here, write the name of the person or business you’ll send the order to. If you’re not sure what to write, it’s best to ask the payee to avoid any mistake. The order needs to have the correct name, just like on a check, so the payee can successfully cash it.
  3. Purchaser. The next section requires the purchaser’s information – that’s you! Write your full name and address. This clarifies for the recipient who the money order is from. Plus, your address provides your contact information in case there is an issue with the payment.
  4. Memo. Money orders typically include a “Memo,” “Re:” or “Payment For” line. This is where you should write what the money is for. It helps to include other necessary information, like an account number or order number. This line is important for both the recipient and your own record-keeping, especially if you are paying a business.
  5. Signature. Before you send it off, be sure to sign the front of the money order. Take care not to sign the back, since this is where the recipient will need to sign.
  6. Keep Your Receipt. The money order will have a detachable receipt portion. This proof of purchase will allow you to track the money order and ensure when it is cashed by the recipient. It also comes in handy in the event the order is lost or stolen, so be sure to keep it in a safe place.

How to Send a Money Order

With your money order filled out, it’s time to send it. Most often, people use money orders  for their better sense of security over cash. Addressing a money order to a specific recipient means that no one else can use it, even if they do steal it. This makes it much easier to send a money order in the mail with some peace of mind.

Before you send your money order, double check that you’ve detached your receipt portion or carbon copy. Then, you can slip the order into a stamped envelope, address it to the payee and send it out. You can also simply hand the money order to the recipient in person.

How to Cash a Money Order

how to fill out a money order

If you’ve received a money order as payment, you can deposit or cash it just like you would with a check. To deposit your money order into your bank account, bring it to your bank and deposit it with a teller. To cash a money order, you can either bring it to your bank, or to the money order issuing company (like Western Union or the USPS) for payment.

You may want to check that the money order isn’t a fake before exchanging your goods. This is especially important if you’re not familiar with the buyer. If the order is fake, you won’t be able to collect any cash when you bring it to the bank. Online scammers often use fake money orders, so if you suspect anything, report it to the authorities.

The Takeaway

Not only are money orders secure forms of payment, but they’re also pretty convenient. You can find them at a number of locations and fill them out with ease. When filling out a money order, though, double checking is key. You’ll want to make sure the correct amount has been printed, you’ve written the correct payee name and you’ve kept the receipt. Once you’re satisfied everything is correct, you can send it off!

Tips for Sending Money Securely

  • Since you’re reading about money orders, you probably know that sending cash through the mail isn’t a secure way to transfer money. If you don’t want to send a money order either, you still have a ton of options, especially with today’s technology. For one, you can send a wire transfer which usually takes a couple days.
  • If you have the right checking account, you can also easily send money electronically without extra fees. You can also typically use these funds immediately, rather than having to wait a few days.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/martin-dm, United States Postal Service, ©iStock.com/dardespot

Danielle Klimashousky Danielle Klimashousky is a freelance writer who covers a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset. She is an expert on topics including credit cards and home buying. Danielle has a BA in English from Wesleyan University.
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