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Banking 101: What to Do When You’ve Lost a Money Order

Written by Emily Starbuck Gerson | Published on 3/2/2019

Note: This article is part of our Basic Banking series, designed to provide new savers with the key skills to save smarter.

Money orders are a handy way to pay for a product or service without either party needing to have a bank account. It’s practically the same as handing over dollar bills, but you have the comfort of knowing you have a receipt with tracking information and proof of payment should the money order ever go missing or be stolen. It can be tricky to get those funds back without one.

If your money order has fallen into the wrong hands and been cashed, you might be down and out, but you’ve still got options. If it hasn’t been cashed yet, it’s likely you can recover the money. Here are the steps you can take to try to recoup your lost money order.

If the money order hasn’t been cashed yet, report it lost to the issuer and cancel it immediately

If your money order is nowhere to be found, it’s important to take action quickly; that’s because as soon as it’s cashed, it’s harder to get the funds back, so you want to act before it falls into the wrong hands.

Each money order issuer handles the process for recovering a lost money order slightly differently. Most will require you to contact the issuer and provide specific details about the money order, such as its serial number, so they can track down its status and see if it has been cashed or not. If it hasn’t been cashed yet, you will likely be able to cancel the order and get a refund or replacement money order.

Here’s how a few of the most popular issuers handle a lost money order:

  • Western Union: If you still have your money order receipt, you will fill out the money order tracing/refund request on the back of it. You’ll mail it to the address listed on the back along with a $15 nonrefundable fee, and it can take up to 30 days to process. If you no longer have the receipt, fill out this form and mail it in with a $30 nonrefundable fee and expect processing to take six to eight weeks. You can also submit either of these forms by fax or email, and the business will then determine if you’re able to cancel and replace your money order.
  • MoneyGram: If you’ve lost a MoneyGram money order, the business asks that you first check the money order’s status online to see if it’s eligible for cancellation and replacement. If it is, it will take you to a form where you can request your replacement money order. Your replacement will be processed in seven to 10 business days, and you’ll have to pay a nonrefundable processing fee of $18. If you submit your request via snail mail, the fee is $25 and it takes at least 20 business days, plus mail delivery time, for it to be processed.
  • U.S. Postal Service: If your stolen or lost money order is through USPS, you can check the status of it online. But if you want it replaced, you have to go to your local Post Office in person. You’ll fill out and submit a “Form 6401 Money Order Inquiry” and pay a $5.95 processing fee. The Postal Service says once you’ve submitted the form, check their Missing Money Order List (link to download at the bottom of this page ) to see if your money order’s serial number is on there. Once they’ve determined your order’s status, you’ll be issued a replacement. However, keep in mind that you’re not guaranteed a full refund on a stolen or lost money order if you don’t have a receipt for it.

What happens next?

As you can see, once you notify the issuer of the lost money order, it can take anywhere from a week to two months for them to determine the status of your money order and potentially issue a replacement or refund. If you are eligible for a refund or replacement, Western Union and MoneyGram will mail them to you.

If your lost money order was through the USPS, you’ll receive a letter letting you know if you’re eligible for a replacement money order (while they won’t refund a lost money order, you can make the replacement out to yourself and cash it). But you have to go back to your local post office in person to receive it.

If you needed to get those funds to someone urgently, it may be wise to purchase another money order in the meantime since it could take a while to get your replacement or refund.

If your lost money order has been cashed, ask for a copy from the issuer

If your stolen or lost money order has already been cashed by an unintended recipient, you might not be able to get the funds back. If it has been cashed, it’s common for issuers to provide you a photocopy of the cashed money order (if not, you can ask for one). This document lets you see who endorsed it, and if it’s someone who stole the money order, you can report it to law enforcement and provide them with this document so they can try to track down and prosecute the thief.

If the lost money order was blank, that means anyone can sign and cash it, making it harder for you to ever get that money back. But if it was addressed to someone and a different person cashed it, you may be able to get a refund since the bank didn’t properly verify the identity of the recipient.

How to keep your money order safe

Losing a money order is a headache, and as you now know, can result in a total loss of those dollars. If you want to make sure this never happens to you again, try these tips next time:

  • Always save your receipt: Having your money order receipt can go a long way in speeding up the cancellation process, and some issuers won’t replace a money order or provide a full refund without one.
  • Deliver your money orders carefully: One way to help prevent lost money orders in the future is to hand-deliver them or mail them. MoneyGram advises against leaving them in a drop box or anywhere they can easily be taken.
  • Never leave the recipient field blank: If your money order is lost or stolen, it’s easier for someone to get away with it if they obtain a blank money order. You’re more likely to recoup the funds if it’s cashed by someone other than the indicated recipient, so fill out that field immediately (and with a black pen that won’t rub off).
Previous Comments
deplorable 1
  |     |   Comment #1
Why not just have a free checking account and write a check? This way you have a record of the payment. This article should be titled "The worst and most expensive way to send money". I thought the point of these articles was to teach folks starting out the right way to do things.
  |     |   Comment #2
Non-citizens have a problem with banks but not with mail orders. And for those that don't trust banks they have a problem with them to.
  |     |   Comment #7
Nothing, anyone with passport can open a bank account anywhere including USA, if you are implying to the illegals, they are not suppose to be here on the first place, second, an illegal sends the money electronically using western union and many other electronic transfer companies, because, if you send MO in Mexico, the recipient will never receive the MO, the corruption in the mail facilities is rampant (from the supervisors to the mailmen), there, every letter is opened and inspected for cash, checks, MOs and other money instruments, if any found, they are confiscated and shared among them. I have a friend in Guadalajara MX and I learned from him.
  |     |   Comment #23
checks have a way of bouncing....often. If you have a tenant for instance. Never accept a personal check. Money orders or cashier's checks guarantee you will get your funds
  |     |   Comment #72
Advice from Struggleville, thank you Ghetto land lord
  |     |   Comment #61
Some places just want money orders only
  |     |   Comment #71
Deplorable, poorly educated, obedient, groveling all come together in your post
Only me
  |     |   Comment #84
Many reasons. I ran out of checks and they didn't come in time for me to pay rent. A friend had a landlord who wouldn't cash her checks until up to 2 months later. It was a hassle when she was balancing her check book.
Get Real
  |     |   Comment #3
Some courts want money orders. Some other agencies require money orders.
deplorable 1
  |     |   Comment #6
Well so far I have yet to run into anyone who doesn't take a check, cashiers check, credit card or cash. I was at a restaurant once that said they would only accept cash but they didn't tell me this until after I ate. I told them well if you want to get paid you find a way to take a credit card or a IOU. They took my card.
  |     |   Comment #73
Youre all class, was the ''restaurant" chick fil a?
  |     |   Comment #4
This is why everyone needs a good housekeeper. We all lose things, but having a thorough maid to come behind us and find the lost items is priceless. I simply adore good help!
  |     |   Comment #8
Is the butler position still opened?
  |     |   Comment #22
I've have only bought a few in my life and never lost one. My last one was 8-10 years ago, I got a speeding ticket and It was my first in over 20 years so I called somewhere? The number on the ticket maybe? And I told them I had a clean driving record and that I heard I could go to driving school instead of paying the ticket. They said yes and to send them an email with all my information. They responded giving me a few months to go to a class. Then I found that they had them fairly frequently in different areas but near me, they would not have one anytime soon. So I drove to one on the other side of town on a saturday morning at a hotel. They accepted cash. When the class ended the lady would grade our tests , (nobody came close to failing) and then hand us a certificate which we sent to the court with a money order for court costs. And they dropped the ticket. The total cost of the course and the court cost was almost as much as the ticket but we got to keep our driving record clean. That was only available to people who did not have prior traffic tickets in so long. (Parking tickets do not count)

Then I got a slight discount on insurance for the next few years from completing driving school too.

I think it was about 3 hours long with a break in the middle.

No appointments were needed, you could just show up. The day I went, there were not many open seats left. I had to sit in the first row. I think the instructor brought in a few extra chairs for the last few that came in after me. I was about 10 minutes early but almost everyone beat me.

I still had time to hit their breakfast bar which I was unsure was supposed to be for people who did not stay overnight but there was nobody around to ask so I just helped myself to what little was left.
  |     |   Comment #24
Usps lost my money order that was purchased at Fifth Third Bank. The bank wants me to purchase Suraty Bond insurance in order for me to retrieve my money. This doesn't seem right. The bank has already told me that the money orders have not been cashed. Pls help, Chris.
  |     |   Comment #25
If you (otherwise) have the cash at the bank...then an personal indemnification for the time to have it clear seems reasonable for you to give but if no cash why would they accept your signature? In the latter case bond for a very limited time is not unreasonable...or why is it? Check with the issuer of the money order to if cleared. The payee you put on the money order must be endorsed that way or you will go after the issuer. Isn't it nice you didn't use a debit card!
  |     |   Comment #26
The money orders were purchased by me to send to my landlord. The post office lost the mailed money order. In order to get my money back I would have to purchase the surety bond insurance, an assurance that if someone was to still cash the money order, even after they were cancelled, I would be responsible.
  |     |   Comment #27
Are u ok with landlord is the pressing question. I read your comment and I suggest u reread mine. I understand what is involved...i’m trying to ascertain that u do...it is (normally) your responsibility to ensure payment is received since u selected the method of delivery. Good luck!
  |     |   Comment #28
Will the post office accept my lost money gram receipt.
Iost m0ney 0rder
  |     |   Comment #41
My money order was lost in the mail 8 weeks ago I have got no answers on how to get a refund I didn't enquiry what do I do
  |     |   Comment #44
Start by asking the issuer of the money order what to do.
  |     |   Comment #42
If a blank money order was stolen but not yet cashed, and I issued a cancellation through MoneyGram, can the money order still be cashed?
  |     |   Comment #43
Did the issuer of the order cancel it? You may have to indemnify them for x days.
Did you request a replacement order...again you may have indemnify them

Orders are negotiable instruments! Did you file a police report...if not, why?
Helen Eskridge
  |     |   Comment #63
I got a $500 money order and send it to my landlord and it got lost in the mail now the post office where we received it from is telling us they will not refund it what do I do please help me
Cynthia Jabbaar
  |     |   Comment #67
My lady bought a money from PLS she filled it out in order to pay rent put it in the mailbox and fought later her WASN'T received.Then went back to PLS on Tremont St. in Boston and have getting the run around going 3months, what should we do? Christmas is here and she still hasn't been reimbursed. Help us. Thank you
I wonder
  |     |   Comment #75
I have a question. If a MO was blank, deposited and or cashed and you still have the receipt can you trace it to find where it was cashed
  |     |   Comment #76
Checks are not ”blank” but endorsed with a person signature normally with the named person on the front. Ask/pay for a copy of cashed order...assuming you have the receipt...otherwise why would anyone provide you with it?
  |     |   Comment #124
You can’t believe, I have the same very question. My money Oder got stuck on another, so while I was signing, one wasn’t signed among the 6 money orders. Can you imagine the renter’s office sent me an email after a week, how I owed $500. I said how possible is that coz I have all my receipts.
But because I tore the receipts off together in one lot, and not singles, am sure that’s how I missed one of them underneath the other. I would have expected them to be honest enough to tell me that I missed signing one of them after seeing them together, and even the short rent would have been an indicator/ highlight, besides how would a person bring half rent without talking about it? Am so disappointed with the stuff at this point and I don’t know how to truck that money order especially if it wasn’t signed. It was like money given out for free… am really don’t know how to start and that’s how I even came on here, to see if I can get a reasonable opinion or advice.??
  |     |   Comment #77
Why isn't refund amount in proportion to the amount of money order? Why the flat fee ? Refund, replacement efforts sometimes aren't not worth the effort. But rather, it's the principal of the matter.
  |     |   Comment #78
Don’t write/buy small MOs...then the charge is relatively small.
  |     |   Comment #83
I have a checking account. Is there anyway I can deposit my $80 back onto my card since I lost my money order I have the receipt
Angie Bee
  |     |   Comment #88
So if your rent office loss your money order then they send in for a replacement money order and the they send a letter back and say that can’t send u one because the bank has already cleared it. What does that mean.
  |     |   Comment #90
How can I track down money order that I already sent out
  |     |   Comment #92
I have a question, who do you turn to when you've sent Western Union every documents they told you to send to prove a Money Order was purchased by you, plus was reported lost before the person that found it and my purse and cashed it. I faxed an Electronic Journal Detail Receipt from the store I purchased it at, I filled out and faxed and filled out a Money Order Research Request Form to ... (720) 864- 0477 and mail another Western Union money order in the amount of $15.00 for them to reject it and mailed it back to me claiming they refused to return it to me because I failed to fill out those forms. Who do I turn to now?
  |     |   Comment #93
Small claims court and local newspapers!
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  |     |   Comment #118
I had recently sent two money orders to my HOA for a special assessment, the HOA recieved both and made a deposit. The bank cashed only one and lost the second one. The bank furnished the wrong information to the HOA, stating that the check they had didn't cash after they tried 2 times. My HOA claimed it is my responsibility to make good on the lost check and pay them the assessment now or they will place a lien on my home, followed by a foreclosure. I don't mind asking for a refund for the lost check, but am I responsible to make good for it before I recieve the refund?

Thank you.
  |     |   Comment #119
The delivery obligation is usually upon the payor...you pick the method and that is your obligation (unless a specified delivery is otherwise setforth). The obligation to the HOA is usually independent of "the bank." You may be able to stop payment on the money order (reserve any claim) purportedly lost but may have to indemnify the issuer. Why not issue a personal check for the uncredited HOA payment that is due?  You may also be well advised to talk to your attorney and give him/her your copies of the original MOs.
  |     |   Comment #120
What happens when a Money Order is deposited but the bank did not cash it and no longer has it or a copy? Is it the relievers responsibility or the payers? This has happened to me and now my HOA is threatening me with a lien and foreclosure if I don't make good on the money order now.
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