United States Currency

Learn about U.S. paper and coin money, or learn how to convert between international currencies.

American Money

The United States issues paper currency and coins to pay for purchases, taxes, and debts.

Paper Money

American paper currency is issued in several denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing manufactures paper money. It also redesigns money, with new appearances and enhanced security features to prevent counterfeiting. You can purchase commemorative or bulk versions of American currency through the Bureau's Money Store.

The United States no longer issues bills in larger denominations, such as $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills. However, they are still legal tender and may still be in circulation. 


The United States issues several denominations, with the most common being: 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, and $1. The U.S. Mint is responsible for manufacturing and circulating coins to pay for goods and services. It also issues collectible and commemorative coins that honor a person, place, or event and are available for purchase.

Mutilated Money

If you have paper money that is extremely damaged, you can redeem it with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Examples of damaged paper money include bills that are less than one half of the bill, or in such a condition that you are unable to tell the denomination of the bill. If you have paper money that is dirty, defaced, torn, or more than half of the original size, you can take it to your local bank to exchange it for a bill that is in better shape.

The U.S. Mint has suspended its exchange program for coins that are fused, melted, or mutilated in any other way. Visit your local bank to exchange other coins that aren't severely damaged.

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Video: How to Authenticate U.S. Currency

Learn how to use the security features in the design of U.S. paper money.

0:00 as a regular handler of cash you can avoid accepting counterfeit notes by

0:05 becoming familiar with the security features in US currency all you need to do

0:10 is feel the paper, tilt the note, and check with light

0:14 let's take a look at some easy to use security features in the $20 note you'll

0:19 also find these features on other current style denominations feel the

0:24 paper, move your finger across the note it should feel slightly rough to the

0:28 touch as a result of the printing process and the unique composition of the

0:32 paper. Tilt the note, denominations $10 and higher have color shifting ink in the

0:37 numeral on the lower right corner of the note. On the current style of notes, the color

0:42 should change from copper to green. The current style $100 note also includes

0:48 two new security features that you can check by tilting the note; the color

0:52 shifting bell in the inkwell and the 3d security ribbon. The 3d security ribbon

0:57 contains images of the bells and 100s that shift as you tilt the note. Check

1:02 with light. Hold the note to light to check the watermark and security thread

1:06 which are incorporated into denominations five dollars in higher

1:09 the watermark and security thread should be visible from both sides of the note when

1:14 held to light. For denominations ten dollars and higher, the watermark matches

1:19 the portrait on the face of the banknote, The most recent five-dollar note has two

1:23 watermarks both of the numeral five. The security thread appears in a different

1:28 location for each denomination and glows a unique color when exposed to UV light.

1:32 To learn more about authenticating banknotes explore the interactive notes

1:38 and training module on uscurrency.gov

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Currency Exchange

Each country has its own currency or monetary system for buying and selling products and services. The exchange rate between two countries tells you the price you pay to buy another country's currency. When you travel internationally, you will want to have some of that country's currency to buy products or services. 

Exchanging Currency

You have several options for purchasing currency for a foreign country:

  • Currency conversion tools are available online to compare the value of your country's currency with the value of other countries' currencies including a weekly list from the Federal Reserve Board showing the currency value of over 20 countries against the value of the U.S. dollar. The rates are not in real time. 
  • Check with your local bank or a travel agent before you travel to find out how to buy currency for the country or countries you plan to visit.
  • Most large international airports or train stations have currency exchange booths, exchange vending machines, and ATMs. Some institutions may charge a fee or commission for the exchange service.

If you plan to use a credit card or ATM card abroad, the exchange rate may be different, often better for you, than the rates at currency exchange booths.

Cash Limits When Traveling Abroad or Entering the U.S.

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Video: Field Trip to the Money Factory

Meet Brian, a designer and Dixie, an engraver. Learn about their jobs and how money is made. Here's a lesson plan.

It takes one person to spend money, but many people to create money. These are the people from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, also known as the Money Factory.

Meet Brian. He's one of the Banknote Designers at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Brian Thompson, Banknote Designer:
My job is to design United States currency.

One thing about being a bank note designer is it's 98% thinking. You have to think about what you're going to do and think about what's going to work when it gets on the press. The easiest approach when designing, it's a big puzzle. You take different pieces and aspects of America or different things and piece it together almost like one united, almost like a story.

Different icons, such as the eagle, because I know we hand draw those and to end up seeing those on a note is pretty awesome, because you know, it's like your artwork is all over the world.

Once the design team has finalized the design, steel plates need to be created for the printing press.

This is Dixie. She's a script engraver and puts the finalized design into steel.

Dixie March, Script Engraver:
If you notice your money it has lettering on it and it also has numerals on it to denote the denomination. While we have designers that pick up and make designs, my job is to interpret their designs in steel.

Sitting and cutting script, because it's very rhythmical. You're just looking in your die through your glass and twirling the die around and cutting it.

There's not too many artists that could say that they've had their work replicated billions of times.

Once the plates are created, the money starts being printed. Blank currency sheets are brought in. First, the background images are printed. Then presses print the backs of the notes and then the faces of the notes. The final step is the printing of the serial number and Treasury and Federal Reserve seals.

Once the bills are printed, they're cut and packaged into "bricks." The completed loads are transferred and securely stored in the Federal Reserve Vault.

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Last Updated: November 29, 2017