How to Cancel or Replace Money Orders

Stealing mail
Sometimes money orders are lost, stolen, or simply no longer needed. Daniel Fort/Photolibrary/Getty Images

The only constant in life is change. So what happens if your plans change after you’ve bought (and possibly mailed) a money order? What if it goes missing or gets stolen?

With most money order issuers, including USPS, Western Union, and MoneyGram, you can cancel a money order. To do so, either fill out a form or take the money order back to the place you originally bought it. Bring identification and any information you have about the money order (ideally, you have a receipt) to start the process.

If successful, your funds will be returned in about 60 days.

The sooner you act, the better: if the money order gets cashed or deposited (find out if that's happened), you’ll have a much harder time getting your money back. Read on for more details about the process.

How to Cancel

You’ll need to do paperwork to have a money order canceled. You can often do this in person, but you can also mail a form in (with Western Union, you can submit the form by fax or email — which is a good idea since it will get processed sooner). Submitting your request in person is safest: it’s the only way to ensure that you completely satisfy the requirements, and you don’t have to wait for the form to move through the mail.

You don’t necessarily have to go to the exact same location you bought the money order from, although at times that might be helpful. You should be able to visit any post office that deals with USPS money orders, and you can use different branches of the same bank or credit union.

Links to commonly-used Customer Service sites:

Original Documents

Keep your receipt any time you buy a money order. It’s best to provide the receipt when canceling, as it contains important information (like the money order number and other details).

If you don’t have the receipt, gather as much information as you have. Even a photo of the original money order is helpful.

Without a receipt, the issuer might still be able to find your money order, but they’ll charge additional fees — and there’s always a chance that they won’t find your money order without a receipt.

If you still have the original money order, that’s helpful as well. Returning the document to the issuer helps ensure that it won’t be cashed, which reduces risk and can help speed the refund process.

How Long?

Once you submit your cancellation request, the money order issuer will research the item and confirm that it has not been paid. If it is still outstanding, you’ll get a refund or replacement (less any fees).

Plan for the process to take 30-60 days, but the timeframe can vary depending on how complex the situation is. Yes, that is a long time to wait. If approved, some issuers offer refunds, while others provide a replacement money order (which you can make payable to yourself).

Already cashed? If the money order was cashed or deposited, you’ll generally get a photocopy of the document so you can see who endorsed the money order and when. If theft or fraud was involved, this could help you and law enforcement track down thieves, and it may help you get your money back (especially if the bank that paid out funds did not properly verify the identity of whoever cashed the money order).

Fees

Canceling a money order (or finding out that it’s too late) will cost you. USPS money orders, at $6.10, have the lowest cancellation fees. Western Union and MoneyGram charge $15 (or more, if you don’t have your receipt). It’s best to submit payment along with your cancellation request — in some cases the fee can be deducted from your refund, but it also slows things down if the money order was cashed (because there’s nowhere to pull the funds from).

Money Orders You Received

If you’ve been paid by money order, you might wonder if it’s a completely safe form of payment, or if your buyer can cancel the payment. To be safe, cash or deposit the money order as quickly as possible — this reduces the chances of cancellation.

The two key risks you face when getting paid with a money order are:

  1. The money order is fake, or
  1. The money order will be canceled before you cash it

Some money orders are fake, and they’re commonly used for online scams. You can try to verify the item by calling the issuer before you send merchandise, but the absolute safest approach is to cash the money order. Remember that your bank might allow you to cash a money order for 100 percent of its value, but later come after you for the funds if the money order is bad. Therefore, it’s best to cash the money order directly with the issuer.

Resources

If you need to cancel a money order, it’s best to go directly to whoever issued it. However, if you’re trying to get an idea of what’s involved ahead of time, you’ll need (among other things) the following documents:

Again, for up-to-date forms, and the fastest service, contact your money order issuer immediately.