Generally, money orders, which are a reliable form of payment, don’t have an expiration date. However, depending on the institution to which they belong, they may lose some of their value after a specified period. That usually happens when you need to pay a redemption or service fee to process the money order or due to the charges the old money order attracts. So, the final amount you receive may be less than what the issuer intended you to have.
How Long Is a Money Order Good For?
Most money orders can be good for many years, allowing payees to cash them several years after the issuers wrote them. However, everything depends on the financial institution that issued them.
USPS Money Orders
If you obtain the United States Postal Service (USPS) money order from your local post office, you don’t have to worry about expiration dates. According to USPS, domestic money orders never expire, nor do they accrue interest. So, you can cash postal money orders at any time.
Western Union Money Orders
Western Union money orders have specific rules concerning the expiration date. Your money order will not expire. However, based on the state in which you purchased it and the terms and conditions written on the back of the money order, a nonrefundable service charge may be deducted from the face value if you don’t cash it in within one to three years.
MoneyGram Money Orders
MoneyGram money orders also don’t expire. However, if you don’t cash them within a year, they will begin to attract a service charge every month, and that money will be deducted from the original value of the money order.
Bank or Credit Union Money Orders
An issuer can purchase a money order at the financial institution where they have a bank account, such as their local credit union or bank.
If you fail to cash the money order they sent, after a specified time frame – which, according to Investor.gov, averages five years – the unclaimed funds may be turned over to the state agency dealing with unclaimed assets if they are no longer alive. That process is known as escheatment and will require you to claim your money from the state.
Retail Store Money Orders
The money order expiration date will largely depend on the financial institution associated with the retail store and the state from which it was purchased. For example, Walmart uses MoneyGram money orders, so the issuing company’s terms and conditions will apply.
How to Cash an Old Money Order
Cashing old money orders will depend on where you are and the financial institution that issued the document. You can track the status of your money order in different ways. For example, you can use the post office and serial numbers for USPS money orders or go to the money orders application site and input relevant information. On the other hand, you can track Western Union money orders via the money transfer control number.
First, take a money order to the institution that issued it. For example, if you have a USPS money order, you could go to your post office, take a primary photo ID with you and only sign it when you get your money. Alternatively, you can inquire with your local banks and convenience stores about whether they can help you cash it.
If you have a money order from MoneyGram, Western Union or any other financial services company, you could try to cash it at the local agent’s office. Alternatively, some banks and retailers may process it for you. However, they may charge you a service fee for that.
What Happens if a Money Order Is Not Cashed?
If the money order is not cashed and you are the issuer, you could request a refund by presenting the original money order or purchaser’s receipt to some financial institutions.
During that time, you may need to present your ID and any other document you used when buying the money order. You may need to pay a processing fee before filing a refund request form. For example, Western Union charges $15.
On the other hand, USPS won’t stop payment of money orders, but it could replace stolen, damaged or lost documents after investigations are complete. So, you will need to visit the local post office with your money order receipt and talk to a retail associate so they can start an inquiry. You will receive a replacement if it’s approved and you have paid $13.90.
For bank and credit unions, you must contact the bank customer service reps and ask for the procedure for claiming old money order funds. Then, follow the instructions.
If your funds have been turned over to the state agency dealing with unclaimed assets, you need to search via relevant websites like unclaimed.com, unclaimed.org or MissingMoney.com. The tracking number of the money order will come in handy in determining where it was purchased so you can reclaim the funds.
I hold a BS in Computer Science and have been a freelance writer since 2011. When I am not writing, I enjoy reading, watching cooking and lifestyle shows, and fantasizing about world travels.