When you make a purchase with a money order, you may want to know if your payment has been received and cashed by the person it was intended for. It is possible to track money orders, but it may take some effort and a bit of money.
How Money Order Tracking Works
Unlike personal checks, money orders aren’t directly linked to your personal bank account—you often buy them with cash (though some places will accept a debit card). If you pay with cash, you won't see any evidence of the money order clearing in your bank transaction history. However, you can track money order payments by placing a request with the money order issuer.
Tracking Money Orders
There are different ways to track different money orders.
- United States Postal Service (USPS): Submit an online form and pay a modest fee if lost or stolen. You can also visit a post office near you.
- MoneyGram: Fill out the online form, call MoneyGram’s Customer Care Center at 1-800-926-9400, or visit a MoneyGram location near you.
- Western Union: Call 1-800-999-9660 or fill out an online form and pay up to $15 in administrative fees.
We dive into more information on each of these options below.
Making Your Request
After about 30 days, the issuer typically sends a copy of the endorsed money order (showing who cashed or deposited it, and when) or a notice that the money order has not yet been cashed. If the money order is still outstanding, you may have the option to cancel it and get a refund. The exact process varies from issuer to issuer.
Gather Needed Information
When you buy a money order, you should receive a receipt with the order details. To track the transaction, you’ll need to provide the money order number and the order amount. You can likely use the service's website to see the status of the money order. Just type in the serial number and issued amount. For money orders issued by a U.S. post office, you'll also need the office number.
Take a photo or make a copy of the money order so you can have the information available if you need to track it.
Pay Service Fees
Tracking a money order may be time-consuming, and it can be expensive if you believe the money order is lost or stolen. The USPS charges a $6.95 processing fee to replace a lost or stolen money order. Other issuers charge up to $15 or more to research potentially lost or stolen payments and issue refunds (if needed). You may also have to fill out forms, sometimes in person, and you might not get an answer (much less a refund) for 30 days or more.
Contact the Recipient
If possible, communicate with the person to who you sent the money order. Sometimes people and businesses don’t process money orders immediately, and it may take even longer to deposit the funds once they are received. Getting information directly from your payee may be easier than filling out forms.
It may be worth waiting at least two weeks after you send a payment before giving up and canceling a money order. Most letters arrive at their destination within a few days, but for some reason payments seem to move slower. During holidays and weekends, that process can take even longer. What’s more, your recipient may have been busy or out of town when the payment arrived. That said, if anything seems fishy, it's smart to seek answers quickly.
USPS Money Orders
If you used a USPS money order, you need to visit a post office and fill out a Money Order Inquiry. You can also check the status of the money order online. To complete either form, you need the receipt from your original purchase showing the money order number, amount, and information about the post office you purchased from.
USPS charges $6.95 for researching a money order. The process can take 30 to 60 days, and if the money order has been cashed or deposited, you’ll receive a copy of the front and back of the document. With that information, you can learn where the money ultimately went.
If you can’t wait that long, there may be some unofficial “workarounds” that might help you determine whether or not the money order was cashed or deposited. For example, you can try the post office inquiry line or use the Money Order Status form and see if the item “does not match.”
However, the information you get might not be reliable because the system was not designed to do what you’re trying to do. The only way to know for sure is to use Form 6401 and wait.
MoneyGram Money Orders
Tracking a MoneyGram money order is a bit easier. Call MoneyGram’s Customer Care Center at 1-800-926-9400 or use MoneyGram's online form. You’ll need to provide your money order number and the exact dollar amount; the system should then tell you whether the item has been cashed or not. If you don't have the transaction's number you will need to complete a form and visit a MoneyGram location near you.
If the money order has been cashed and you want a copy of the endorsed money order, or if you need to file a claim, you can do so by filling out a Claim Card, paying $18, and waiting 15 to 30 days for a mailed response.
If you don’t have your money order number, you may need to pay an additional fee and fill out a different form to dig up the information you need. You may also be able to request these services in person to ensure that the process goes smoothly.
Western Union Money Orders
Western Union’s process is similar to MoneyGram’s. Before filling out forms and paying fees, verify that the money order was cashed by calling 1-800-999-9660.
If you need a copy of the paid money order and you don't have your receipt, you can fill out and mail in the Money Order Research Request form. You'll pay a $30 administrative fee for the copy. Don’t submit your request for a copy until your money order has been processed by the recipient—unless you want to cancel the money order. It could take six to eight weeks to hear back from Western Union. At that time, depending on the status of your money order, you'll either get a photocopy, a refund, or Western Union will tell you that it couldn't locate the money order.
The Money Order Customer Request online form may also help you if you believe the money order has been lost, stolen, not used, not received, or destroyed.
Other Money Order Issuers
Many money orders issued at grocery stores, convenience stores, and check cashing stores are Western Union or MoneyGram money orders. If your money order was issued by an organization not already covered here (such as your bank or credit union), there’s still a good chance that you can track it. It might even be easier—especially if you bank at a small institution. Instead of filling out forms, a simple phone call might be all that’s needed.
Tracking and Cashing Money Orders You've Received
If you receive a payment by money order, your bank handles the logistics of processing the payment. You can deposit the payment into your bank account just like you would deposit a check, or cash the money order.
If you’re concerned that a money order you received may be fraudulent, contact the money order issuer and discuss your concerns. It may be possible to verify funds on the payment or at least find out if it’s a known fake.
Don’t spend the money until you’re certain that the funds have cleared. The clearing process can take a few weeks, even if your bank’s funds availability policy allows you to use the money immediately. If you use the funds and the money order turns out to be fake, the bank will require you to repay the amount.
Ideally, you know who you're dealing with when you accept payment by money order. But money orders make anonymous payments possible, for better or worse. You may need to involve law enforcement officials if you need help researching criminal activity (and they might not be able to help).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you cash a money order?
Many of the places that cash checks also cash money orders, such as banks, credit unions, and grocery stores. You'll have to endorse the money order and show ID, and you may have to pay a fee.
How much is a money order?
Money order fees vary by company and by the size of the order, but they're typically less than $2 per $1,000 being sent. For example, in January 2022, USPS charged $1.45 for money orders of up to $500 and $1.95 for orders between $500 and $1,000.
How long is a money order good for?
Money orders don't typically have an expiration date, so they're technically good forever, but there may be fees imposed if a money order isn't cashed within a certain time frame.