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How do international money orders work?

Sending money orders overseas may not be your best option when sending money internationally.

Similar to a domestic money order, an international money order is used for making payments overseas without relying on digital services. International money orders are not the best way to send money abroad, so it’s worth considering other transfer options before buying and sending one in the mail.

What is an international money order?

A money order is a paper document that is used as a method of payment, similar to a personal check. An international money order operates exactly the same way as a domestic money order, by letting you prepay an amount that’ll be used as a secure form of payment. The main difference is that international money orders are accepted by other countries instead of being limited to the US.


  • Safer than mailing cash
  • A bank account typically isn’t required
  • Can’t bounce — paid for in advance
  • Can be tracked internationally


  • Fees for both the sender and receiver
  • If you cash it in a foreign currency, you probably won’t get a good exchange rate
  • Cancellation and refunds can be expensive and take upwards of 30 days
  • Not globally accepted — double check the country you’re sending to
  • Has to be physically delivered before it can be cashed
  • Low sending limits — typically $1,000 or less per money order
  • May require multiple forms of ID to cash

Is using an international money order my best option?

No, an international money order is almost never the cheapest way to send money internationally. Because of the uncertainty involved in sending an international money order, your recipient may end up paying fees and suffering from poor exchange rates when cashing the money order at a bank or local post office.

Let’s crunch the numbers: Sending $1,000 to Mexico

Let’s say you need to send $1,000 to family in Mexico and want to know if sending an international money order is your best choice. Here’s what you might face as far as fees, exchange rates and sending speeds are concerned.

Online money transfer serviceCash transferInternational money order
Fee$0$4.99$20.75 + additional fees to cash
Exchange rate1 USD = 22.224 MXN1 USD = 22.2911 USD = 21.028
Transfer speed1-2 dayMinutes3-10 days
Amount receivedMXN 22,224MXN 22,180MXN 20,592
  • Best value
  • Fastest
  • Slowest and most expensive

The international money order is both the slowest and most expensive option. There may be additional fees charged when cashing the international money order, and the exchange rate featured in our table is based on bank rates – the exchange rate offered when cashing the money order may be weaker.

A cash transfer service could almost always have the money there faster and available for cash pickup at hundreds of locations, while a digital service could deliver the money directly to your recipient’s bank account if desired.

Who is most likely to be researching international money orders?

Finder data suggests that men aged 25-34 are most likely to be researching this topic.

ResponseMale (%)Female (%)
Source: Finder sample of 544 visitors using demographics data from Google Analytics

How to fill out an international money order

Because an international money order is physically sent to your recipient, make sure that everything is filled out correctly to avoid any delays. Because your recipient may have to pay fees to cash the money order, consider sending more than needed to help cover fees and exchange rates.

Steps to fill out your international money order

  1. Check availability. International money orders will not be accepted everywhere. Before you purchase one, make sure your recipient will be able to cash it at a local bank or post office.
  2. Fill in the recipient’s name. Because your recipient may need to show ID when cashing the money order, write their name exactly as it shows on their ID to avoid any complications. Some international money orders, like those from the USPS, require you to fill in the recipient’s address in addition to their name.
  3. Use the memo section. If you’re paying an international bill, include the account number and purpose of payment under the memo section. If you’re sending money to family, consider putting your name and address in the memo section and label yourself as the purchaser.
  4. Sign the money order. International money orders without a signature may be rejected.

After filling out the money order you’ll want to:

  • Keep your receipt.
  • Ask about expected delivery dates.
  • Have the USPS or transfer agent verify you’ve filled it out correctly.

How do I cash an international money order?

Money orders can be cashed in the same way as a check, but international money order cashing locations may be restricted depending on where you live. Follow these steps to cash an international money order:

  1. Find a location. Before you have an international money order sent to you, verify that a local bank, post office or convenience store will be able to cash it.
  2. Endorse the money order. You must sign the back of the money order before it can be cashed, but wait to sign it until you’re about to hand it over to the cashier.
  3. Provide identification. Your ID will need to match the name on the international money order and be government-issued, such as a passport, driver’s license or military card.
  4. Pay associated fees. Unfortunately, you may have to pay fees and agree to poor exchange rates to cash your international money order. You may be able to have these charges deducted from the money order total. Ask the cashier if this is an option.
  5. Count your cash. Verify the amount of money you received is correct before you leave the counter. Any missing money is not the responsibility of the cashier if you notice the mistake after finalizing the transaction.

Bottom line

As sending money shifts online, money orders are becoming less common. There are many ways to send money internationally that can be done entirely online from the comfort of your home. To learn how to get started with these types of transfers, head over to our guide on transferring money and send your first transfer today.

Frequently asked questions

Do international money orders have a maximum limit?

Yes. International money orders sent through the United States Postal Office (USPS) are limited to $700 for most destinations.

Can you track an international money order?

Yes. Use your receipt to track your order by calling the company you sent it through or visiting the location from which you sent the money order.

Can you cancel an international money order?

It depends. If the money order has been cashed you may not be able to cancel it. If it is still in transit you may be able to call the company that issued the money order and cancel it for a refund, but chances are low.

My international money order was stolen. Now what?

A lost or stolen money order can be replaced, but you’ll often face a fee to do so. You’ll need to report the stolen money order to the company that issued it, provide details found on your receipt and then typically wait anywhere between 30 and 60 days for a resolution.

I received an international money order from a stranger. Should I cash it?

No. Never cash an international money order that you weren’t expecting; it is a scam. To learn more about what to do in this situation, visit our money transfer scams page to learn more.

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Zak Killermann was a technical publisher at Finder who specialized in currencies and investing. Zak’s expertise was in breaking down technical finance concepts into approachable, digestible nuggets of information. See full bio

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