Learn How to Fill Out a Money Order

Step by Step

Sample Money Order Filled Out
Most money orders follow this format. See the notes below for any variations. Justin Pritchard

Filling out a money order is similar to writing a check. Each money order issuer is slightly different (USPS and Western Union money orders have a different format), but there are four basic steps to complete a money order.

The amount of your money order should be printed on the document when you buy the money order, so you don’t need to fill in that information.

1. Enter payee information: write the name of the person or business you’re paying with the money order.

This section might be labeled "Pay to the order of" or "Payee." Avoid making money orders payable to cash, as you risk losing the funds if the money order gets lost or stolen.

2. Address information: some money orders have space for you to provide your mailing address. This allows the recipient to contact you with any questions or issues that come up with your payment. However, if you’re worried about your privacy, you might be able to leave this information out – just ask the money order issuer and the recipient what is required. For USPS money orders, the address section on the left is for the recipient’s address (other money orders typically use this space for your address) – so you’ve got space for both addresses.

3. Additional details: you may need to include additional information on your money order so that the payment is handled correctly. For example, it may be helpful to write your account number, transaction or order details, or any other notes that will help the recipient figure out where the payment came from.

This section may be labeled "Re:" or "Memo." If there’s no space for additional information, just write it somewhere on the front of the document.

4. Signature: some money orders require a signature, and some don’t. Look for a section marked "Signature," "Purchaser," or "Drawer" on the front of the document.

Do not sign the back of the document – this is where the recipient will endorse the money order.

After you’re done filling out your money order, hold on to any receipts, carbon copies, and other documents you got when purchasing the money order. You may need these if there’s a problem with your payment. They will allow you to cancel the money order if necessary, and they can be helpful when tracking or confirming the payment.

Why use Money Orders?

For buyers: money orders are a safe way to pay. Instead of sending cash through the mail (which is never a good idea), you can send a document that can be tracked and that can only be cashed by the intended recipient. Compared to checks, money orders help you keep certain information private (such as your bank account numbers, home address, and even your name). However, there are drawbacks to using money orders – see below.

For sellers: money orders are (usually) a safe form of payment. Buyers must use a cash equivalent to buy the instrument, so it can't bounce like a personal check. However, money orders are sometimes faked and used in common online scams, so it's best to make sure they really clear before spending the money.

If money orders are new to you, learn how they work (and how they don't) by reading the Basics of Money Orders.

  • Need to buy a money order? See where you can get one. They cost about one dollar at most retailers, but you'll pay slightly more at your bank or credit union.

Drawbacks of Money Orders

While money orders are popular and inexpensive, there are a few drawbacks. Fortunately, there might be other ways to pay. For large purchases (which might require that you use several money orders -- and pay the corresponding fees), a cashier's check might serve your needs.

What's more, money orders are not a substitute for a bank account. Life is much easier (and less expensive) if you have an account for storing spending money, plus you can write checks or use your debit card instead of going out for a money order every time you need to make a payment.

If you can't get a checking account for some reason, you might find that a prepaid card is a nice step in the right direction (but you should still work on getting a full-fledged bank account down the road).