Photo (cc) by Marcin Wichary
Six of the scariest words I’ve ever heard? “I haven’t received your money order.”
I had purchased a U.S. Postal Service money order a couple of months ago, and mailed it the same day. I thought it had been received and cashed by now – but suddenly, I had several hundred dollars lost in transit and no idea how to track it. After my heart started pumping again, I ran to trusty Google, where I found this information from USPS…
Lost or stolen?
We’ll replace a lost or stolen money order for a fee. Just complete and submit PS Form 6401 Money Order Inquiry at your local Post Office. Once we’ve completed a payment inquiry on the status of the money order, we’ll issue a replacement.
Which I took to mean, “So you lost your money order? No problem. Fill out this easy form, we’ll track it electronically through our system, and hand you your money.”
I was wrong. The process is quite a bit more involved than that.
If your money order is lost in the mail, you won’t be eligible for a refund for at least 60 days – according to USPS policy – and you’ve got a lot of work to do before that happens…
1. Locate your documents
You’ll need more than one piece of paper to start the recovery process. After reading the USPS site, I marched straight to the post office and asked for PS Form 6401. The clerk asked me for my customer receipt – which I didn’t have.
To start the “payment inquiry,” you’ll need to bring three things…
- Your driver’s license or proof of ID
- Check or credit card to cover the fee
- The “customer’s receipt,” which is the portion of the money order you detach and keep. (The Michigan Department of Corrections offers a good example.)
You must have the customer’s receipt – without it, you’re screwed and USPS won’t replace the money order. And you must have the “Pay To” and “Address” fields filled out before you bring the receipt in.
2. Head to the post office
After you collect everything you need, take it all to a post office. I went to the same post office where I ordered the money order, but any can help you.
When you walk in, tell a clerk that a money order you sent was lost in the mail. They’ll give you a PS Form 6401 to fill out right there.
After you complete it, hand it and your ID to the clerk. After he verifies the information, you’ll need to pay the fee to start the inquiry. (As of last November, it costs $5.40 for a money order inquiry.)
The clerk you speak with doesn’t complete the inquiry. Instead, they send the information to a main USPS branch for “processing” and hand you a receipt. Mark the date of your inquiry on your calendar so you know when your 60 days is up – and keep that receipt handy! (The main branch will keep you updated via snail mail.)
3. Receive the inquiry acknowledgement
I ordered my money order inquiry on Nov. 28. When I saw a letter in my mail on Dec. 6, I was convinced it was going to contain money, or at least directions on how to get money. Wrong again!
The first letter you’ll receive is an “inquiry acknowledgement.” My letter from USPS states…
Dear Mr./Mrs. COLLEY,
This is an acknowledgement of the receipt of your inquiry.
Since a U.S. Postal Money Order is not eligible for replacement until 60 days from the date of issue, please do not expect a refund until the 60th day.
Please note, international money orders are not eligible for replacement until 180 days from the date of issue.
If our records indicate that the money order was cashed, we will provide you with that information, as it becomes available.
Please keep this letter for your reference. If there are any questions, please contact your local post office.
There really isn’t much you can do at this point except mark the issue date (shown on the top right-hand corner of the letter) on your calendar and save the letter along with your receipt.
4. Receive the resolution letter
I received a resolution of my inquiry on Dec. 14 – 17 days after I filed the initial paperwork. The “resolution letter” will tell you what USPS was able to find out about your money order. If the money order was cashed, USPS will provide a copy of the front and back of the original money order, showing who cashed it.
And if the money order has not been cashed? The letter will say so, and it’ll offer vague instructions on what to do next…
If you have any additional concerns or questions, write to us at the address indicated below and enclose a copy of your customer receipt with this letter.
If you haven’t received a resolution within 30 days of filing the inquiry, contact your local post office. You can look up the phone number for the post office on the USPS Services Locator site. Ask the representative to look into your inquiry and give her the inquiry ID (located on the receipt and on your acknowledgment letter). The representative can provide you with a status update on your claim.
5. Follow up
Once you receive the resolution letter, you’ll have two different courses of action depending on the information you received.
If the money order was cashed: Verify the signature on the second photocopy. In my case, it seemed that my payee had cashed the money order, but I needed to make sure the signature wasn’t fraudulent. I emailed a copy of the letter showing the money order to my payee. Then I called her to verify her signature.
I got lucky, and she had eventually received and cashed the money order. But if your payee claims the signature isn’t theirs, you can still get your money back. Contact USPS at the number provided on the resolution letter. Inform the representative that you think the money order was fraudulently cashed. The representative will ask you about the money order copy – if the front has any changes, and if the back was signed. After giving the rep the information, you’ll receive a confirmation number. Write this number down.
USPS will investigate your claim. In most cases, USPS will be able to issue you a replacement after completing the investigation. In some cases, you may need to file a police report at your local police station. Either way, USPS will contact you via snail mail with further instructions. Follow these instructions carefully and keep any documents you receive.
If the money order wasn’t cashed: You’ll be eligible for a replacement 60 days from the original date of your inquiry. To make sure you receive the replacement, hold on to every document you have. On Day 60, bring every document to your local post office and request a replacement. You’ll need to fill out another form, but the post office will issue you a blank replacement money order for the original amount.
6. Get a refund
You may have noticed I’ve used the word “replacement” several times. USPS does not offer direct refunds for their money orders. Instead, you’ll need to make the replacement money order out to yourself and then cash it or deposit it into your bank account. From the USPS site…
Money Orders are not eligible for a refund. However, if a money order is spoiled or damaged, you can request a replacement money order, write your name as the recipient, and then cash the money order.
Once you receive the replacement, write your full name on the payee line and your full address on the address line. Detach the customer’s receipt portion of the money order, and take the negotiable portion to your bank for deposit or cashing. (Make sure you sign the back.) Your bank will issue the funds to you.
It wasn’t as easy and pain-free as the USPS site led me to believe, but I did get the matter resolved and you will too – just make sure you file your claim within the time frame. According to the customer’s receipt, you have two years to file a claim for a replacement.