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Guide to international money orders

If you have friends or family living overseas, or if you’re travelling or living abroad, you’ll likely need to send money across international borders. There are several ways to conduct an international money transfer, and the best way for you will depend on factors like cost, speed, security and overall convenience.

International money orders are one way to do it - they’re straightforward but they do come with some drawbacks. Here’s our guide to international money orders, how they work and the pros and cons of making one.

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What is an international money order?

An international money order is a document that works as a safe and secure way of sending small amounts of money overseas.

How do international money orders work?

International money orders work in a similar way to checks, but you won’t need a bank account to receive the money. The sender pre-pays an amount and the document is sent to the recipient, who can exchange it for cash.

How do I send an international money order?

Sending an international money order is relatively straightforward - just follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Buy a money-order certificate from a third-party provider, such as your local postal service (Post Office, USPS etc), bank or money transfer branch. You’ll normally be able to pay using cash or card.

  • Step 2: Fill out the money order form with the required information, including your name, address and contact details, the recipient’s name, and the sum of money you’re sending.

  • Step 3: Send your international money order certificate to your recipient, usually via international mail

How much can I send with an international money order?

You will likely find that international money orders come with limits for how much you can send abroad, depending on the provider you use and the country you send to. For example, USPS has a maximum limit of $700 for international money orders, and allows the sending of multiple money orders up to a maximum limit of $10000.

Pros and cons of international money orders

Pros

Convenience: Sending an international money order can be a convenient option, as you can pay via cash, card or even traveller’s cheques, and you don’t need a bank account to send or receive funds
Safety: It’s a safer method than sending cash as even if the money transfer order is stolen in transit it can’t be used by anyone but the named recipient - and a signature is required by both sides
Prepaid guarantee: As the transfer is already prepaid by the sender there is no chance the money order will bounce
Trackable: International money ordered are often trackable, which means you’ll be able to see how far along your order is and when it’s been collected

Cons

Send and receive fees are expensive: International money orders can be quite costly when it comes to fees, compared to other methods of sending money
Low limits: International money orders can sometimes come with limits to how much you can send, so they aren’t always a great way of sending large amounts overseas
Poor exchange rates: You may not get the best currency exchange rates with international money orders, which affects how much you’ll be able to send
Slow as sent via post: While they are safe and reliable, international money ordered can take a while as they are usually sent via the mail
Not accepted everywhere: Some places don’t accept international money ordered, while some providers only let you send money ordered domestically

Where can I get an international money order?

You should be able to purchase an international money order from your local postal service, a range of banking institutions, and even some third-party companies like money transfer and currency exchange providers.

How can I get an international money order in the US?

If you’re in the US you should be able to purchase an international money order from the USPS to a range of countries - your transfer limit is generally around $700, but it will depend on where and how you send the money,

However in the US you won’t be able to send money via an international money order to certain countries - instead you’ll need to use a service called ‘Sure Money’ or ‘DineroSeguro’.

Aside from the USPS, you can also buy an international money order from various banks or even your local Walmart.

How can I get an international money order in Canada?

To get an international money order in Canada you’ll need to go to the relevant institution or organisation - they will take the required information and fill the form out for you. Canada’s postal service is called Canada Post.

How can I get an international money order in the UK?

To get an international money order in the UK you can purchase a money order from from the Post Office or some banks and financial institutions.

How much does an international money order cost?

International money transfers usually have a fixed fee that will depend on the amount you’re sending and/or the country you’re sending it to as well as the provider you send it with. For example, fees for international money orders with some of the biggest providers are:

  • Capped at £12.50 in the UK with the Post Office

  • Set at $10.25 with the USPS

  • $20.75 for Sure Money purchases between $750 and $1,500, and $14.55 for amounts lower than $750

How to cash an international money order?

When you receive an international money order, you’ll be able to cash it at a local bank, post office or even some shops. You will need to:

  1. Sign the money order just before you give it to the cashier so they can see you do it

  2. Provide identification, usually either a passport or driving licence

  3. Pay any required fees as part of the transaction

  4. Ensure the amount of money is correct before leaving the location

Are international money orders safe?

International money orders are completely safe and private, with no risk of losing money if the order is misplaced or stolen as it needs to be signed by the named recipient to be cashed.

What are the alternatives to an international money order?

International money orders have their upsides and their downsides, but it’s up to you to decide whether it’s the best way to send money abroad. You may want to consider the following alternatives:

  • Using a money transfer operator is the quickest, easiest and often the cheapest way to send money abroad. You can use a money transfer operator to send funds via bank transfers, money pickups and deliveries, and mobile wallet apps

  • Sending money via a wire transfer can be a useful method if you and the recipient use the same bank, but otherwise there can be significant fees and longer waiting times

Other ways to send money

FAQs

How much do international money orders cost?
How fast are international money orders?
Do international money orders have transfer limits?
Can I cancel an international money order?
What is the difference between a money order and a money transfer?
Where can I get an international money order?
How fast can you cash an international money order?
Where can I buy an international money order?
Can you send money orders online?
How do you check if a money order has been cashed?
Is there a limit to how much you can send using money orders?

Summary

If you’re considering whether there might be a better alternative for you than an international money order, then take the time to compare them to other alternatives such as banks and online money transfer companies. If you want a guaranteed prepaid way of delivering money overseas, then international money orders might be for you, but by looking into the various online money transfer providers around today, you will probably be able to find a quicker and cheaper way to transfer your funds abroad.

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Article Factchecked by Elliot Laybourne on 20th July 2022. Elliott is a former investment banker with a 20 year career in the city of London. During this time he held senior roles at ABN Amro, Societe Generale, Marex Financial and Natixis bank, specialising in commodity derivatives and options market-making. During this time, Elliott’s client list included Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Schroders Asset Management, and the Pennsylvania State Public School Employees Retirement System, amongst others.
Mehdi Punjwani
Mehdi Punjwani
Mehdi is a writer and editor with over five years of experience in personal finance, writing for brands including MoneySuperMarket, Equifax and The AA. He graduated from Brunel University with a BA and MA, and likes to spend his free time hiking, travelling, and reading.