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Tips for Tracking a Money Order

By Kevin Brouillard · March 07, 2023 · 8 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Tips for Tracking a Money Order

A money order can be a safe and reliable way to send money, but what happens when the recipient doesn’t receive or cash it? It’s possible to track a money order to make sure it is delivered to the intended person, but doing so may come at a cost. While the process for tracking varies by issuer, it’s usually helpful to have the receipt and money order details before filing a request.

If you are handling money orders and want to verify that they arrive at their destination and are cashed, read on. Here’s what you need to know about:

•   What do you need to track a money order?

•   Why would I need to track a money order?

•   How do I trace a money order?

•   What are some tips on tracking a money order?

What Is Money Order Tracking?

Money orders are a way of transferring money. They are prepaid with cash or a debit card.

They differ from personal checks and cashier’s checks in one important way: There is no sign in your bank transaction history if and when the money order has cleared. This can raise the question “How do I track a money order?”

Figuring out how to trace a money order is fairly straightforward if you’ve kept your receipt. When you purchase a money order, the issuer should provide a receipt with a tracking or serial number that can verify if it has been cashed or deposited. Senders can submit details from the receipt through the issuer’s website or automated phone line to track the money order.

Without a receipt, however, money order tracking becomes more difficult. You’ll likely need to file a request with the money order issuer. Doing so will probably incur fees and may take several weeks to complete but can hopefully help reduce your financial stress.

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What Do You Need in Order to Track a Money Order?

Depending on the issuer you used, extra information could be needed beyond the tracking or serial number on the receipt. Additional information will probably be necessary if you’ve misplaced the receipt. Here are more specifics:

•   Tracing a postal money order can be done online or by phone The following details, which are listed on the USPS money order receipt, are required.

◦   The dollar amount

◦   The post office number

◦   The money order’s serial number, which is typically a 10 or 11-digit code.

However, if you don’t have a copy of the receipt, you’ll have to fill out and submit PS Form 6401 to initiate a money order inquiry.

•   Tracking money orders from other issuers, such as MoneyGram and Western Union, can usually be done online or by automated call center. This is provided that you have the serial number and exact payment total.

   If you’ve lost the receipt, you’ll need to supply more details about you and the recipient, such as:

•   Your name, phone number, and address

•   The exact money order amount

•   The purchase location address

•   The date and time of purchase

•   The payee’s (or recipient’s) name, if included on the money order.

Recommended: How to Cash a Postal Money Order

Tips to Track a Money Order

Before picking up the phone or filling out any paperwork, consider these tips for tracking money orders.

Contact the Recipient

Before you get to work tracking a money order, consider that you might be able to save time and potential cost by reaching out to the intended recipient. This individual or business is referred to as the payee on the money order.

You can ask if the money order was received. It’s possible that the money order arrived and has yet to be cashed or deposited. Contacting the recipient directly could be simpler than submitting a request with the money order issuer.

Make Sure You Keep the Issuer Receipt

Another route involves using the details from the receipt. Money orders can be purchased at banks, post offices, check-cashing businesses, and retail stores like supermarkets and pharmacies. When you buy a money order, you may receive receipts from both the issuer and location you purchased it. For example, a money order bought at a pharmacy could be issued by MoneyGram or Western Union. Note that the issuer receipt is the one with the information (i.e., serial number and dollar amount) you’ll need to track your money order.

You might have to pay an extra fee and complete additional forms to track a money order without a receipt and the serial or tracking number.

Check the Status Before Submitting a Request

There are multiple ways to check the status of a money order. If you have your serial or tracking number and the money order amount, you should be able to verify online or by automated phone line whether it has been cashed or deposited. This could be free, or there may be fees (up to $15 or more), depending on the vendor.

There are also likely fees and significant waiting times when submitting a request for a copy of the paid money order. The situation is similar if you choose to investigate a money order you believe to be missing or stolen. Checking the money order status beforehand can quickly determine if it’s been cashed and guide your next steps.

Reasons Why Someone Tracks a Money Order

Money orders are considered a safe form of payment, but there are reasons why you might want to track one. Accounting for your money, after all, can be an important aspect of managing your money.

Recover Lost Payment

A lost money order can be a major inconvenience, especially if you were waiting for the funds to make timely payments. Tracking the money order can help determine if it’s gone missing and recover funds more quickly.

If you are expecting a money order that doesn’t arrive, it’s wise to contact the issuer and complete any required documents quickly.

Protect Against Fraud

Tracking a money order can help protect senders in cases of theft or fraud. In such an event, requesting a photocopy of a cashed money order can support a fraud claim and potentially get your money back. The photocopy will indicate who endorsed the money order. If the signer does not match the payee, you could get a refund since their identity wasn’t properly verified.

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How Long Does It Take for a Money Order to Send?

A money order can be purchased and prepared quickly — simply add the recipient’s information, put your address, fill out the memo (if desired), and sign. From there, how long it takes to send depends on the delivery method. If handing it over in person isn’t feasible, sending it via USPS First-Class Mail can deliver the money order in one to five business days.

Once received, a money order can show as available almost immediately, but in terms of how long it takes to clear fully, that might be from a couple days to up to a couple of weeks.

Tips for Protecting Yourself When Tracking a Money Order

Although money orders are generally a secure form of payment, they can potentially be used for money scams and fraud. Consider using these tips to protect yourself.

Fill out the Recipient Information Immediately

As soon as you purchase the money order, enter the recipient name in the payee field to help safeguard yourself from fraud.

Save the Receipt

After filling out the money order, be sure to detach the money order stub and any receipt. Storing the receipt in a safe and accessible place will make it easy to track the money order in real time. It also provides the necessary information to file a request for cancellation and alert law enforcement in case the money order is damaged, lost, or stolen. It’s recommended to hold onto the receipt until the money order has been cashed.

Wait Before Spending Any Funds

If you receive payment by money order, it’s advised to hold off on using any funds until they’ve been verified by the issuer or cleared by your bank. In the event a money order is fraudulent, you could be liable for any amount spent.

Recommended: The Best Options for Sending and Receiving Money From Someone Without a Bank Account

The Takeaway

A money order is usually a secure way to transfer funds to a payee instead of using cash or a check. It can be tracked to ensure that it has been received and cashed by the designated payee. Keeping the receipt and other details will streamline the tracking process if you do need to verify the money order’s status. It can take a bit of time and money to trace a money order if it goes missing.

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Does it cost money to track a money order?

Some issuers let you use the serial or tracking number to track the money order for free online. Otherwise, you may have to pay a small fee. Investigating a lost or stolen money order typically carries fees, often around $15.

Where can I track a money order?

You can track a money order online, by phone, or going to the issuer in person.

How do you cash a money order?

You may be able to cash a money order at a bank or retailer that issues money orders. In addition, retailers where you have cashed checks in the past (such as your local supermarket) may cash money orders. Cashing it typically requires signing the order, verifying your identity, and paying a service fee to receive the funds.

Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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