How to fill out a money order: step by step

Fernando Figueiredo

Writing a money order is one way to make a payment. Like a check, it’s a piece of paper that the recipient can pay in at the bank – the difference is, the sender pays for a money order upfront.

This article will explain how to fill out a money order, and explain a money order’s pros and cons.

You’ll also read about Wise and how you can save with its online international transfers.

How to fill out a money order

Once you’ve got hold of a money order – and you can get them from anywhere from post offices to banks or credit unions – you’ll just need to fill it out. Here’s how to write and sign a money order:

  1. Fill in the payee’s name
  2. Fill in your own name and address
  3. Add your account number or a reference (if necessary)
  4. Sign the money order
  5. Pay it
  6. Keep the receipt

And now here’s a bit more on how each of those steps works.

1. Fill in the payee’s name

The recipient’s name needs to be on the money order, whether it’s a person or a business.

You just need to write the name in the right field, which will probably be marked “Payee,” “Pay to,” “Pay to the order of,” or something similar.

2. Fill in your own name and address

Additionally, you’ll need to put in your own details – usually this isn’t just your name, but also your address, in case there are any problems at the other end.

3. Add your account number or a reference in the memo field

This isn’t always necessary – if you’re sending a relative a birthday gift, for example, you might not need to bother. But if you’re paying a bill, you’ll probably have an account number, invoice number, or similar, that you should put on the money order.

This will make sure the recipient knows what the payment is for.

4. Sign the money order

There’ll also be a field for your signature, usually called purchaser’s signature – you must sign this, or the money order won’t be valid.

The signature will go on the front. The back of the money order tends to contain fields for the recipient to fill out – so don’t sign there.

5. Make the payment

One step you don’t want to forget. As already mentioned, the key difference between checks and money orders is that you pay for a money order upfront, before it gets sent, so there’s no chance of it bouncing.

As well as the amount you’re sending, you’ll also need to pay a fee for the order itself – probably just a few dollars, but this will depend on each case.

You can pay with cash or debit card - but do try to avoid credit card, as the card provider might consider it a cash advance, and that could cause fees or higher interest rates.

6. Keep the receipt

When you’re sending a money order, keeping the receipt is even more important than it usually is. Your receipt is the proof that you’ve sent the money, so definitely hold onto it until the payee has received it.

You’ll also need the receipt if you want to try and cancel the money order, or if anything goes wrong with the process – for instance, if the money order goes missing in the post.

Money orders: pros and cons

As with everything in life, there are positives and negatives when it comes to money orders. Here are a few things you’ll do well to consider.

Money order benefits

Sending a money order is a secure way to send money to a particular recipient. Only the intended recipient can cash it, and you as the sender can track the money order on its way.

What’s more, they’re widely available at post offices, stores, banks, and specialist money transfer companies like Western Union. They’re also not very expensive.

And as mentioned, from the recipient’s perspective a money order may be better than a check because there’s no chance that it will bounce.

The final advantage is that if you don’t have access to a bank account, you can pay a money order with cash.

Money order disadvantages

Maybe the biggest disadvantage of money orders is simply that they take a while. When it’s so easy to do things online these days, it can feel inefficient to make a trip into town, fill out a money order on paper, and then have it sent off in the mail.

Hopefully it won’t take more than a few days for the mail to reach the recipient, but there’s no way it’ll arrive literally straight away, like some online transfers do.

Online transfer can also be cheaper, although of course that depends on which bank or payment service you use.

There’s also the question of limits. Money orders usually only go up to $1,000 or so, so if you’re looking to make a larger payment than that, it probably isn’t an option.

All in all, these days there are probably fewer and fewer good reasons to choose a money order over other, quicker payment types. But if you don’t have access to online banking, or of course if your recipient has specifically asked for a money order, then it’s great that this option is still available.

Sending money overseas? Meet Wise.

If you want to send money internationally online, with low cost and in little time, then consider Wise. Unlike banks, with Wise you avoid the markup on the exchange rate, and you don’t have to worry about any Swift fees or other intermediary banks’ costs.

You simply pay an upfront small fee, and your money gets converted into the currency you’re sending to with the mid-market rate. That’s all you pay, avoiding extra costs and unpleasant surprises: you know exactly how much you pay and how much the recipient gets.

How to send money internationally:

  1. Join Wise for free
  2. Choose the amount and the sending and receiving currencies
  3. Insert the recipient's details
  4. Make the payment

And that’s all you have to do: Wise will keep you up-to-date with the status of your transfer - both on the app and via email notifications. Fast, easy, cheap.

Join Wise

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money for here, there and everywhere

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location