Postal order

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One of the most famous postal orders in history: the one alleged to have been cashed by George Archer-Shee 5 shilling postal order stolen from Terrence Back.jpg
One of the most famous postal orders in history: the one alleged to have been cashed by George Archer-Shee

A postal order, postal note or money order is a financial instrument usually intended for sending money through the mail. It is purchased at a post office and is payable at another post office to the named recipient. A small fee for the service, known as poundage, is paid by the purchaser. In the United States, this is known as a postal money order. Postal orders are not legal tender, but a type of promissory note, similar to a cheque.



Irish 9 shilling postal order uprated with additional stamp used in 1969. Used postal orders are seldom seen because most were destroyed when they were redeemed or cashed at the post office or bank Irl 9shillingPO.png
Irish 9 shilling postal order uprated with additional stamp used in 1969. Used postal orders are seldom seen because most were destroyed when they were redeemed or cashed at the post office or bank

The postal order is a direct descendant of the money order, which had been established by a private company in 1792. During World War I and World War II, British postal orders were temporarily declared legal tender to save paper and labour.[ citation needed ] Postal orders can be bought and redeemed at post offices in the UK, although a crossed postal order must be paid into a bank account. [1] Until April 2006 they came in fixed denominations but due to increased popularity they were redesigned to make them more flexible and secure. They now have the payee and value added at the time of purchase, making them more like a cheque. There is a fee for using this form of payment. The maximum value of postal order available is £250.00 with the fee capped at £12.50. [2]

Use in other countries

A New Zealand 20 shillings postal note of 1952 New Zealand 1952 20 Shillings Postal Note.jpg
A New Zealand 20 shillings postal note of 1952

The use of postal orders (or postal notes in some countries) was extended to most countries that are now part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, plus to a few foreign countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Thailand. [3]

United States

United States Postal Money Service were introduced in 1864 by an act on Congress as a way of sending small amounts of money through the mail. [4] By 1865 there were 416 post offices designated as money order offices that had issued money orders to the value of over $1.3 million and by 1882 they has issued orders valued at $113.4 million from 5,491 money order offices. [5]

Currently they facially appear as a draft against an account held by the United States Postal Service, and the United States Postal Service requires a purchaser to know, in advance, where presentment of the instrument will occur. Only special, more expensive United States International Postal Money Orders may be presented abroad. In the United States, international money orders are pink and domestic money orders are green. [6]


Canada had its own postal orders (called postal notes) from 1898 until 1 April 1949, when these were discontinued and withdrawn.

A British Forces Post Office in Suffield, Alberta was issuing British postal orders as late as July 2006.


Chinese Imperial Post began issuing postal orders since 1897, the so-called "remittance certificate". After purchase, these certificates are payable at main post offices in China and usually bearing franked postage stamps represented as fee. Since 1925, a set of special stamps were used by post offices to issue secured postal orders. [7] . Since 1929, Chinese Post were capable of selling international postal orders cashable under UPU protocol at a few other countries including Japan, Britain, France, and the US.


Not used as the recipient was at an RAF base in England and presumably had no ready access to an Australian canteen. 1943 Australia Defence Canteen order.jpg
Not used as the recipient was at an RAF base in England and presumably had no ready access to an Australian canteen.

A Defence canteen order was a variant of a postal order used in Australia during World War II. Purchased at a post office, it was payable to an enlisted person in goods from a canteen rather than being a cash instrument. [8]


Postal orders are gaining in popularity as collectibles, especially among numismatists who collect banknotes.

There is an active numismatic organisation in the UK called the Postal Order Society that was established in 1985 with members both domestically and overseas. They hold twice-yearly postal auctions of postal orders and related material from across the British Commonwealth.


Despite competition from cheques and electronic funds transfer, postal orders continue to appeal to customers, especially as a form of payment for shopping on the Internet, as they are drawn on the Post Office's accounts so a vendor can be certain that they will not bounce. They also enable those without a bank account, including minors, to make small financial transactions without the need for cash. Postal workers in the United Kingdom use voided or cancelled orders in their training. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

An international reply coupon (IRC) is a coupon that can be exchanged for one or more postage stamps representing the minimum postage for an unregistered priority airmail letter of up to twenty grams sent to another Universal Postal Union (UPU) member country. IRCs are accepted by all UPU member countries.

Postage stamp Small piece of paper that is displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment for postage

A postage stamp is a small piece of paper issued by a post office, postal administration, or other authorized vendors to customers who pay postage, who then affix the stamp to the face or address-side of any item of mail—an envelope or other postal cover —that they wish to send. The item is then processed by the postal system, where a postmark or cancellation mark—in modern usage indicating date and point of origin of mailing—is applied to the stamp and its left and right sides to prevent its reuse. The item is then delivered to its addressee.

United States Postal Service Independent agency of the United States federal government

The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States, including its insular areas and associated states. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution.


An overprint is an additional layer of text or graphics added to the face of a postage stamp, banknote or postal stationery after it has been printed. Post offices most often use overprints for internal administrative purposes such as accounting but they are also employed in public mail. The most well-recognized varieties are commemorative overprints which are produced for their public appeal and command significant interest in the field of philately.

Training stamp

A training stamp is a label resembling a postage stamp that is used by postal authorities to train postal workers. They generally have the same size and shape as regular stamps, but with a minimal design. Alternatively, several countries have simply obliterated their regular stamps in order to make the training process more realistic, for instance Sudan and the United Kingdom.

Accounts payable

Accounts payable (AP) is money owed by a business to its suppliers shown as a liability on a company's balance sheet. It is distinct from notes payable liabilities, which are debts created by formal legal instrument documents.

A transaction account, also called a checking account, chequing account, current account, demand deposit account, or share draft account at credit unions, is a deposit account held at a bank or other financial institution. It is available to the account owner "on demand" and is available for frequent and immediate access by the account owner or to others as the account owner may direct. Access may be in a variety of ways, such as cash withdrawals, use of debit cards, cheques (checks) and electronic transfer. In economic terms, the funds held in a transaction account are regarded as liquid funds. In accounting terms they are considered as cash.

Money order

A money order is a payment order for a pre-specified amount of money. As it is required that the funds be prepaid for the amount shown on it, it is a more trusted method of payment than a cheque.

A personalized stamp is a postage stamp or rubber stamp or dry stamp, with an adjoining label on the left, on which, for a fee, an image and/or text of the purchaser's choosing may be placed. The stamps vary from country to country, and while some are normal stamps with a personalised label on the left attached by perforations, elsewhere the stamps are more properly regarded as one-piece personalized meter stamps with a colourful design next to the indicia. Stamps produced by for the United States, for instance, are one-piece, self-adhesive with die cut margins to emulate perforations, and visually very similar to normal United States postage stamps, except for the addition of an IBI along one edge. Also, a numeric serial number appears next to IBI. Also produced in rubber by around the world with creative designs for different porpuses.

Travellers cheque medium of exchange that can be used in place of hard currency

A traveller's cheque is a medium of exchange that can be used in place of hard currency. They can be denominated in one of a number of major world currencies and are preprinted, fixed-amount cheques designed to allow the person signing it to make an unconditional payment to someone else as a result of having paid the issuer for that privilege.

India Post

The Department of Posts (DoP), trading as India Post, is a government-operated postal system in India, which is a subsidiary of the Ministry of Communications. Generally called "the Post Office" in India, it is the most widely distributed postal system in the world. Warren Hastings had taken initiative under East India Company to start the Postal Service in India in 1688. It was initially established under the name "Company Mail". It was later modified into a service under the "crown" in 1854 by Lord Dalhousie. Dalhousie introduced uniform postage rates and helped to pass the India Post Office Act 1854 which significantly improved upon 1837 Post Office act which had introduced regular post offices in India. It created the position Director General of Post for the whole country.

Cheque Method of payment

A cheque, or check, is a document that orders a bank to pay a specific amount of money from a person's account to the person in whose name the cheque has been issued. The person writing the cheque, known as the drawer, has a transaction banking account where their money is held. The drawer writes the various details including the monetary amount, date, and a payee on the cheque, and signs it, ordering their bank, known as the drawee, to pay that person or company the amount of money stated.

United States postal notes

Postal notes were the specialized money order successors to the United States Department of the Treasury's postage and fractional currency. They were created so Americans could safely and inexpensively send sums of money under $5 to distant places.

National Girobank was a British public sector financial institution run by the General Post Office that opened for business in October 1968. It started life as Post Office Giro but went through several name changes, becoming National Giro then National Girobank and finally Girobank plc before being absorbed into Alliance & Leicester plc in 2003.

Postal orders of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom was the first country in the world to issue postal orders on 1 January 1881. They were the brainchild of the president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, John Skirrow Wright which was to enable poorer people to buy goods and services by post, as they were unlikely to have bank accounts. The rich had bank accounts and could write cheques. A delegation of the Birmingham Chamber went to the annual meeting of chambers of commerce in London and John Skirrow Wright presented the idea, complete with all the details on how it would work including all the postal order values proposed. At first London bankers were against the idea, thinking it would affect their businesses, and the idea was rejected. However, eventually, the bankers realised that the people who would use postal orders were not their customers and therefore no threat to their business. Consequently, at the Annual Meeting a year later John Skirrow Wright presented the idea again and this time it was accepted and the postal order system was started exactly as Skirrow Wright and Birmingham Chamber had proposed.

Postal orders were a service provided by the Canadian Post Office, and was a method of transferring funds between 1898 and 1 April 1949.

A payment is the voluntary tender of money or its equivalent or of things of value by one party to another in exchange for goods, or services provided by them, or to fulfill a legal obligation. The party making a payment is commonly called the payer, while the payee is the party receiving the payment.

Semi-postal stamp Type of postage stamp

A semi-postal stamp or semipostal stamp, also known as a charity stamp, is a postage stamp issued to raise money for a particular purpose and sold at a premium over the postal value. Typically the stamp shows two denominations separated by a plus sign, but in many cases the only denomination shown is for the postage rate, and the postal customer simply pays the higher price when purchasing the stamps.

Money transfer generally refers to one of the following cashless modes of payment or payment systems:

Special journals

Special journals are specialized lists of financial transaction records which accountants call journal entries. In contrast to a general journal, each special journal records transactions of a specific type, such as sales or purchases. For example, when a company purchases merchandise from a vendor, and then in turn sells the merchandise to a customer, the purchase is recorded in one journal and the sale is recorded in another.


  1. "Postal orders". Post Office Ltd. 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-28.
  2. "Fee structure". Post Office Ltd. 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-28.
  3. Reid, Donald M. (1984). "The Symbolism of Postage Stamps: A Source for the Historian" (PDF). Journal of Contemporary History. 19 (2): 223–249. doi:10.1177/002200948401900204. JSTOR   260594. S2CID   159682377.
  4. United States Official Postal Guide. Washington DC: United States Post Office Department. July 1925. p. 93.
  5. Annual Report of the Postmaster General. Washington DC: United States Post Office Department. 18 November 1882. p. 391.
  7. Fuerst, Robert. E (1976). Catalogue of the Money Order Stamps of China (Pagoda Design).
  9. "Another view" by Douglas Myall in British Philatelic Bulletin , Vol. 51, No. 5, January 2014, pp. 149-151.

Further reading