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Postal Orders: How they work

By Lulu Meade

For those who actually remember what they are, postal orders are a relic of Christmas past. But despite the popularity of mobile and online banking, even the existence of cheques, postal orders are very much still a thing.

What is a postal order?

Put simply, postal orders are similar to cheques which can transfer up to £250. They’re slips of paper that allow money to be transferred without any specific financial information- so perfect for those who are reluctant to disclose their financial details or who don’t have a bank account.

There are two types of postal orders, those crossed and uncrossed. If a postal order is crossed then it can only be paid directly into a bank account or to pay a bill. In contrast, uncrossed postal orders can be exchanged for cash.

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Disclaimer: Postal orders are only meant to transfer money from as little as 50p up to £250 and pay your bills/shop by mail order. Those are the only scenarios that are permitted.

Postal Order Charges:

The key disadvantage of using a postal order instead of a cheque or bank transfer is the cost. The fee differs between four value brackets.

  • £0.50- £4.99: 50p fee
  • £5.00- £9.99: £1 fee
  • £10.00- £99.99: 12.5% of the face value
  • £100.00- £250.00: capped at £12.50

How to cash a postal order

Postal orders have to be cashed at a post office and may require ID (though this isn’t required). To cash a postal order, you have to sign the back of the paper to validate it, much like a cheque. This is required for both crossed and uncrossed postal orders- make sure you sign your name the same way it is written out on the front, don’t go throwing in your middle name if it isn’t already printed. You’ll then be required to pay the mandatory fee, which will vary with the value of the slip and can either be paid separately or deducted from the postal order itself. And then ta-da! You’ve got yourself some money.

A quick note- make sure you cash a postal order within 6 months of it being sent! If not, the money cannot be returned to the sender and is pocketed by the post office.

Which is the postal order number?

The postal order number is the long one at the bottom of the slip- you can also find it on your receipt!

What if a postal order is lost? And Postal order refund

At the end of the day, a postal order is a piece of paper like any other and as such is totally susceptible to getting lost down the back of the sofa. If you do lose your slip, don’t panic!

You’ll need to wait 15 days after posting the slip and then you can get a lost post form, a P58. You can grab a P58 from your local post office and need to send it off to Royal Mail with a photocopy of your proof of purchase. On the receipt of your original postal order you’ll have gotten a unique ID number which will be needed if you want to claim for the lost slip.

If your postal order has been stolen, then report it to the police and get a Crime Reference Number. You can then contact the post office with that number and get a refund, so long as the order hasn’t been cashed.

You can get a refund easily enough from the post office if you have a receipt on you. Otherwise, you’ll need to post your request with the slip to: Postal Order Team, 1 Future Walk, Chesterfield S49 1PF. If approved, you will be sent a payout letter which you can then take to your local post office and get a refund in cash (remember to bring a valid ID!)

Hopefully, that’s answered your questions on postal orders!

If you’re looking for better ways to monitor your bills and spending and take control of your budgeting check out the free Nova app. Start your financial journey now!

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