What Is an International Money Order?

by Carl Mullan ; Updated July 27, 2017

An international money order is a prepaid negotiable document that is almost identical to a domestic money order, except that an international money order can be cashed outside of the United States. International money orders have many benefits:

  • Convenient way to send money internationally.
  • Less expensive than bank wire transfers.
  • Safer way to send money than a personal check as they contain no personal bank information.
  • Safer option than mailing cash.
  • Requirement that the person cashing it sign the document and show legal identification.

Purchasing and Cashing

International money orders are not sold by Western Union, MoneyGram or any other commercial agent in the United States. These third-party agents sell standard money orders, which are only for domestic use, but many such agents offer international wire transfers.

You can purchase international money orders only at United States Postal Service offices. As of publication, the U.S. Postal Service had agreements with 28 countries regarding the issuance and cashing of international money orders. This reciprocal arrangement allows international money orders to circulate easily between those countries.

Value Limits

The money order is prepaid by the sender at the time of purchase using cash, debit cards or traveler’s checks. As of publication, international money orders have a maximum value of $700. Exceptions to this limit are international money orders issued for use in El Salvador and Guyana, which allow a maximum money order of $500. For other limitations or exceptions on international use, visit the U.S. Postal Service online or ask at a local post office. Unexpired international postal money orders issued in any of the 28 reciprocal countries can be cashed in the United States.

Some countries, including Canada, have additional agreements with the U.S. Postal Service. Canadian postal money orders are available in either Canadian or American currency and can be cashed at a bank or post office in the United States. Some financial institutions charge a fee for cashing foreign postal money orders. Canadian money orders can be paid only through the post office if the document is addressed to a U.S. payee, and the amount is printed in U.S. dollars.

Tracking International Money Orders

To find out if the money order has been cashed, you can track money orders through the U.S. Postal Service. If a money order is lost, destroyed or stolen, the original purchaser usually can stop payment and receive a refund. The U.S. Postal Service provides an online Missing Money Order List search. If you can't find locate the money order by serial number through an online search, call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455. Once the missing status of a money order has been determined, a new one can be issued. You'll pay a fee for replacing a lost or stolen international money order.

About the Author

For more than five years, Carl Mullan was a writer and editor for DGC Magazine, a leading digital currency industry publication. His first book entitled "The Digital Currency Challenge," published by Palgrave Macmillan, is available in college and law school libraries around the world.