When you need to use a secure, guaranteed form of payment, few options are better than a money order. Similar to a check, you can specify the recipient — but because you have to pay for a money order before it’s issued, there’s no risk of it bouncing when the payee goes to cash it. This protection makes money orders an ideal choice for sending money in the mail, or for when you need a receipt as soon as you make a bill payment.
Money orders are important to fill out correctly. This payment form, unfortunately, is commonly used for scams, and locations where you can purchase or cash money orders might be sensitive to this issue. In an effort to ensure that no one is taken advantage of, customer service agents may not let recipients cash a money order that has a mistake or includes incorrect information — even if it’s being used for a legitimate purpose.
To ensure that the recipient of your money order can actually cash it, the money order must be free of any mistakes. Luckily, actually filling out a money order isn’t all that difficult, as long as you have the right information and any necessary documentation. Let’s take a more in-depth look at how to fill out a money order.
Table of Contents
Know Where to Get a Money Order
First of all, you need to go somewhere that sells money orders. Though there are specific stores that specialize in money orders and wire transfers, there are plenty of other businesses that sell them. In fact, you can easily pick one up while out doing your regular errands; between the various banks, department stores, pharmacies, and grocery stores that provide them, there’s bound to be a place that sells money orders near you.
Keep in mind that though there are websites that sell money orders, you should go to a store or bank in-person. Most of these sites are unreliable and untrustworthy. In addition, they often charge more while lowering the amount you can put on a single money order. So even if you do stumble upon one of these sites, it’s probably safest to buy one from the customer service counter of your local grocery store, or at your bank.
Identity the Recipient
Similar to a personal or cashier’s check, you must identify a specific recipient on a money order. The person, business, or institution you put on the money order will be the only one able to cash it. Simply write their name on the “Pay to the Order Of” line on the money order. Be sure to spell it correctly!
Generally, this should be the first thing you write on a money order. If you complete the other information first and something happens to the money order, someone else may try and take advantage of that and write their own name in. Money orders are all but useless to anyone who isn’t the recipient, so write their name in first, just to be safe.
Next, fill out your own information. Put down your full, legal name on the “Sender,” “Purchaser,” or “From” line. Some money orders will also require you to include your address and phone number. Use your current mailing address and daytime phone number if that’s the case.
You may also be asked to provide your account number. This most frequently occurs when using a money order to pay a bill. Write the correct number on the appropriate line to make sure that your account is credited.
Some businesses, including the post office, will require you to show a government-issued photo ID to confirm your identity. Other locations may only ask you for your ID if you purchase more than a certain amount or number of money orders. It’s best to be prepared and bring one with you.
Sign the Money Order
When all of the other fields are completed, the only thing left to do is sign the money order. Before doing so, double-check all of the information you’ve already filled out to make sure it is correct. Once you’re sure everything is accurate, sign the front of the money order where it says “Purchaser’s Signature” to authorize it. The money order isn’t valid without your signature, and the recipient won’t be able to deposit or cash it if you don’t sign.
There is also space on the back of a money order for a signature. Do not fill this out by mistake, as the recipient must also sign it when they cash or deposit the money order, just like a check. If you do accidentally sign on this line, you’ll have to start the process over.
Some money orders may provide an additional line for a note or memo. Not all money orders will have this space, though, and if yours does, you aren’t required to fill it out. It’s simply there to let the recipient know what the money order is for.
Keep Your Receipt
At this point, you have to pay for the money order. The total cost will be the amount you want on the money order, and whatever the business charges to print or process it. Use cash or a debit card to pay; while you can pay for a money order with a credit card, it’s typically treated like a cash advance and you’ll likely have to pay some additional fees.
There will be a detachable receipt on your money order once it’s issued. Don’t throw it away or send it along with the money order; keep it for your own records. Some money orders have tracking information on the receipt so you can check and see if it’s been deposited. If it doesn’t, you should still keep the receipt as proof of purchase in case the money order is lost or stolen.
After you fill out and pay for it, you can give the money order to the recipient. Whether you give it to them in person or send it in the mail, be sure to notify the recipient that it’s ready for them to cash. Be sure to hang onto the receipt until the recipient cashes or deposits the money order; once they have, your transaction is complete.
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