As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.” So what happens if your plans change after you buy a money order and drop it in the mail? What if it goes missing or gets stolen?
With most money order issuers, including USPS, Western Union, and MoneyGram, you can cancel the payment. 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 to start the process. It’s best if you have a receipt from your original money order purchase.
If successful, the issuer should return funds to you, often within about 60 days.
The sooner you act, the better: If the money order gets cashed or deposited, you’ll have a much harder time getting your money back. Read on for more details about the process.
How to Cancel
You need to do some paperwork to cancel a money order. You might do that in person, or you may be able to do everything remotely. For example, with Western Union, you can send the form by fax or email.
Submitting your request in person may be the safest option. A representative might be able to help verify that you satisfy all of the requirements, and you don’t have to wait for forms to move through the mail. You may have to wait for the company to conduct research, though.
You don’t necessarily have to go to the same location you bought the money order from, although sometimes that’s 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.
To start the process immediately and see requirements, visit the customer service site for your money order issuer:
Keep Original Documents
Keep your receipt any time you buy a money order. It’s best to provide the receipt when canceling because 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 be able to find your money order, but they may 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 Does It Take?
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), depending on the issuer.
Plan for the process to take 30-60 days. However, the timeframe can vary depending on how complicated 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 make payable to yourself).
If anybody deposited or cashed the money order, you’ll typically get a photocopy of the document so you can see who endorsed the money order, and when. If theft or fraud was involved, that documentation could help you and law enforcement officials to track down thieves. That information could also help you get your money back (if the bank that paid out funds did not properly verify the identity of whoever cashed the money order, for example).
Fees for Canceling Money Orders
Canceling a money order—or finding out that it’s too late to do so—will cost you. Western Union and MoneyGram charge an $18 processing fee. But prices may rise if you don’t have a copy of your original receipt or if you want to expedite the process. The fee to replace a lost or stolen USPS money order is $6.95.
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 Receive
If you receive a payment 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. Doing so reduces the chances of problems, like somebody canceling the money order.
The two key risks you face when getting paid with a money order are:
- The money order is fake.
- The buyer could cancel the money order before you cash it.
Some money orders are fake, and con artists regularly use them for online scams. You can try to verify the payment by calling the issuer before you send merchandise, but the absolute safest approach is to cash the money order with the issuer. Remember that your bank might allow you to cash a money order for 100% of its value, but later come after you for the funds if the money order is bad. Therefore, it’s critical to cash the money order directly with the issuer.
If you need to cancel a money order, it’s best to go directly to whoever issued it. However, if you’re trying to understand what’s involved ahead of time, you may want to review the following documents and other information available from each issuer:
- For Western Union, a Lost Money Order Search Request form
- For MoneyGram, a Money Order Claim Card
- For USPS money orders, form PS 6401 (Money Order Inquiry)
For up-to-date forms and the fastest service, contact your money order issuer immediately, and get forms directly from them.
How Long Is a Money Order Good for?
Money orders typically do not have an expiration date. However, some institutions may charge a fee for cashing money orders more than a few years old. If you have an outstanding money order that you don't want to be cashed, be sure to cancel it.
How Do You Track a Lost Money Order?
If you're unsure whether a money order has been cashed, you can contact the issuing institution to track it. MoneyGram, Western Union, USPS, and local banks all have different procedures for tracking lost money orders, and each will require a fee for the service.
How Do You Correct a Mistake on a Money Order?
If you make a mistake when issuing a money order, you probably can't change the existing order. You'll have to cancel it and issue a new one.