When you’ve been paid with a money order, how do you turn it into cash? You can cash money orders or deposit them just like checks. Let's review your options and see what you need to watch for as you convert money orders to cash.
Money Order Basics
If this is the first time you've received a money order, you may wonder what you have on your hands. A money order is similar to a check (in appearance as well as function), so you can treat money orders exactly like checks made out to you. You can’t spend money orders like cash; they represent funds in somebody else’s account. To use those funds, you have to cash the money order or deposit the funds into your account.
For more information on money orders in general, see Money Order Basics.
Cashing Money Orders
So, how do you turn that piece of paper into money you can spend? Take it to your bank and ask if they’ll provide cash immediately on the money order. If you can’t get to your bank or if you don't have an account anywhere, try visiting the money order issuer (Western Union, US Postal Service, etc.). Working directly with the issuer will help you minimize fees and increase your chances of getting cash quickly. Be aware that some places won't cash money orders if you're not a customer and if they didn't issue it.
If you can't visit the money order's issuer, check cashing stores, convenience stores, and grocery stores might also cash money orders for you.
To cash a money order you’ll need valid identification.
Depositing Money Orders
If you don’t need cash right away, your a smarter move is probably to deposit the money order (instead of cashing it) in your bank account. You can get cash later if necessary -- but why not keep funds safely in the bank until then? You're less likely to spend the money if you're not carrying it around with you, so deposit what you can and you'll have more later.
Where should you deposit a money order? Use your existing account -- they'll be happy to take the money. If you don't have an account at a bank or credit union, you can always use this money order for your initial deposit.
Fees for Cashing Money Orders
If you cash a money order, expect to pay (unless you cash a USPS Money Order at the post office). You'll typically have to pay transaction fees and/or a percentage of the proceeds. These fees can add up, especially at check cashing stores and convenience stores. It’s almost always worth opening an account at a bank or credit union -- even if they charge maintenance fees -- instead. Once you’re a customer, you can go to a bank and cash money orders without additional charges.
Is it Any Good?
Money orders are often used in scams. If you want to make sure you’ll be paid, verify that the money order is legitimate before accepting it. You can never be 100% sure, but you can identify most scams by calling a money order issuer to verify funds.