A money order is a safe and secure alternative to checks. You might use money orders to make cash deposits when renting an apartment, pay bills when you use a cash budget, send money to family overseas or any time you want to keep your banking information private.
Filling out a money order is easy if you follow a few basic steps.
What Is a Money Order?
A money order looks and works like a check, but you don’t have to have a checking account to use one. That’s because you pay the face value of the money order when you purchase it. You can buy one with cash or a credit or debit card for a couple of dollars above the face value.
Where To Buy a Money Order
You can buy money orders at many locations, including:
- Your bank or credit union
- The post office
- Western Union and MoneyGram locations
- Convenience stores, grocery stores, big-box stores and drugstores offering Western Union or MoneyGram services
Steps on How to Fill Out a Money Order
Money orders vary slightly in appearance depending on where you purchase them, but most have the same basic sections to fill out.
1. Fill In the Recipient’s Name and Address
Fill in the recipient’s name and address in the “pay to” section as soon as you get the money order. As long as it’s left blank, if it’s lost or stolen, the wrong person could fill in the recipient field and cash it.
2. Fill In Your Information
Fill in your name and, if there’s a line for it, your address. The section for your information could be labeled “purchaser,” “from,” “sender” or “remitter.”
3. Include Any Additional Information
Some money orders have a memo line like checks have. Use this to include a note or, if you’re paying a bill, your account number.
4. Sign the Money Order
If required, sign the front of the money order. The line will say “purchaser’s signature” or something similar.
Don’t sign the back of the money order unless you’re making one out to yourself. In that case, check with your bank before depositing it via mobile deposit — not all banks allow it.
Keep the Receipt for Your Records
Detach the receipt from the money order and keep it in a safe place. In the event that you lose the money order or make a mistake filling it out, you’ll need the receipt to get a refund from the issuer.
Alternatives to Using a Money Order
Money orders aren’t always the best solution. They’re not great for large purchases, for example, since they’re limited to $1,000. Also, the fees add up when you use money orders frequently.
If using a money order isn’t the right option for you, consider these options for sending money:
- Cashier’s checks: Available from your bank or credit union, sometimes for a fee
- Zelle: App used by many banks that allows you to send money from your bank account to someone else’s, often without a fee
- PayPal: Payment platform you can use to send money to family or friends
- Venmo: App-based service from PayPal with social features that make it easy to send money to people you know
- Online bill pay: Free service often available through banks’ and credit unions’ online banking platforms
Daria Uhlig contributed to the reporting for this article.
This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.