New York & New Jersey Money Order Changes

New York and New Jersey have both shortened their dormancy periods for money orders and other similar written instruments. 

New Jersey Assembly Bill 3002 (discussed here with respect to gift cards) shortens the dormancy period for money orders from 7 years to 3 years, and the dormancy period for traveler's checks from 15 years to 3 years.  The legislation also provides that dormancy fees may not be assessed on these items for a year after issuance, and limits the fees thereafter to $2 per month.

Likewise, on August 11, 2010, Governor Paterson signed New York's budget bill - A9710 - which shortened the dormancy period for non-bank money orders from 7 years to 5 years, and the dormancy period for certain miscellaneous credits from 5 years to 3 years.

Traveler's checks, money orders and similar written instruments have long been a distinct property type in most states' unclaimed property laws, generally having a longer dormancy period than other general intangible property.  Moreover, these items are unique in that the jurisdictional priority rules governing which state takes custody of these items is determined by federal statute.

It remains to be seen whether this trend will continue, or whether there will be any response to the shortening of these dormancy periods.  Last summer, for example, American Express successfully sued to prevent Kentucky from shortening the dormancy period for traveler's checks.

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