What To Do With Ripped Money

Article Summary

The Federal Reserve System in the United States examines currency to determine if it is in good enough condition to be used. If a bill is damaged or considered “unfit,” it is taken out of circulation and either shredded and recycled or turned into compost. Bills that are so badly damaged that are considered “mutilated,” can be submitted to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for possible compensation. If a bill is only partially damaged — that is, more than half of it is still intact — it can be exchanged at a bank or credit union. Torn or damaged currency is still considered legal tender in the United States, as long as the damage is not so severe that it renders the bill unusable.

Money, cash, dough, currency, moolah — whatever you want to call it, we all love the green stuff! But what happens to the old, worn-out bills that are all ripped, covered in graffiti, or just too old to be used anymore? The good news is that the Federal Reserve System takes care of that: they have 28 cash offices across the country that help ensure currency is in good enough shape to be used. In 2021, the St. Louis Fed alone examined over 934 million notes!

So what happens to the bills that aren’t in good enough condition to be used anymore? They get taken out of circulation. The Federal Reserve System — colloquially known as the Fed — defines “unfit” currency as bills that are “not suitable for further circulation because of their physical condition” due to being torn, worn, limp, dirty, or defaced. About 85% of the currency that gets deposited with the Fed is still in good shape, but the rest gets taken out of circulation. Highly trained employees at the Fed use special equipment and their own eyes to check for unfit bills; if the machines can’t tell how badly a bill is damaged, it gets checked by a person.

So what if you have a ripped dollar bill or two on hand? Let’s take a closer look at how damaged bills are managed and what you should do with your mutilated money.

What happens to damaged money?

If you’re not sure whether your money is still good or not, you can take it to your local bank to exchange it. As long as more than half of the original bill is intact and it’s easy to tell how much it’s worth, the bank can exchange it for you. The Federal Reserve System’s Cash Product Office has a guide that details what counts as “unfit” currency.

So what happens to the bills deemed unfit? They used to be burned, but now they get shredded and recycled or turned into compost. Fun fact: you can visit the Economy Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and actually pick up a free bag of real shredded currency as a souvenir!

But what about bills that are severely damaged — that is, less than one-half of the bill is intact or it’s almost impossible to tell how much the bill is worth? These are deemed “mutilated” bills. Bills can be mutilated by fire, misuse, or even by being buried for a long time. The Federal Reserve System has a process for dealing with mutilated bills as well. You’ll need to fill out a form and send it along with the damaged bills to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which will decide whether the bills can be exchanged or not. If they can’t be exchanged, you will be sent a letter explaining why.

So if you have some old, damaged money lying around, don’t throw it out! Take it to your local bank or credit union to see if you can exchange it, or if it’s extensively damaged, send it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. And if you happen to be in St. Louis, don’t forget to pick up some free shredded currency souvenirs at the Economy Museum!

What to do with ripped money

Maybe you have paper currency on hand that is torn or otherwise damaged, and you’re not sure if it’s still usable. A ripped dollar bill can be frustrating and inconvenient for anyone, but the good news is that as long as a paper note isn’t totally destroyed, you may still be able to spend it.

First and foremost, it is important to understand that torn or damaged currency is still considered legal tender in the United States, as long as the damage is not so severe that it renders the bill unusable. This means that you can still use ripped money to make purchases or pay bills, as long as the person or business you are paying is willing to accept it.

However, it is worth noting that some merchants may be hesitant to accept a ripped dollar bill, especially if it has more severe damage or if its original value is difficult to determine. In these cases, it may be advisable to exchange the ripped money for undamaged currency at a local bank or other financial institution.

How to exchange damaged money

If you are unable to use ripped money, or if you prefer to exchange it for undamaged currency, there are a few options available to you. One option is to take the ripped money to a bank or other financial institution and request that it be exchanged for new currency. It is also worth noting that the USPS does not exchange ripped money, so you will need to go to a bank or credit union to exchange your damaged bills.

Another option for dealing with ripped money is to send it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) for exchange. The BEP is the government agency responsible for printing and issuing U.S. currency, and it has a program in place for exchanging ripped money for undamaged bills. To exchange your ripped money through the BEP, you will need to fill out a form and send it to the agency along with the damaged currency. The BEP will then evaluate the damage and exchange the ripped money for undamaged bills.

Pro Tip

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing and most financial institutions will charge a fee to exchange damaged money. This fee may vary depending on the institution and the severity of the damage, so be sure to budget accordingly.

What is the Mutilated Currency Division?

The Mutilated Currency Division is a unit of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It is responsible for evaluating and paying compensation for mutilated currency. Mutilated currency is defined as currency that is badly damaged, soiled, defaced, disintegrated, or otherwise rendered unfit for circulation.

What if I can’t exchange my damaged money?

If you are unable to exchange your ripped money through a bank or the BEP, or if you prefer not to pay a fee for the exchange, you may be able to repair the damaged currency yourself. While it is not recommended to attempt to repair ripped money on your own, there are a few options available if you are willing to take the risk.

One option is to use clear tape to repair the tear in a damaged bill, although this may not be a permanent solution and the bill may not be accepted by all merchants. Another option is to use a special currency repair pen, which is designed to fill in tears and other damages on currency. These pens are available at some banks and online, and they can be effective at repairing small tears and other minor damages on paper money. However, be aware that using these pens can sometimes result in additional damage to the currency, so you should make sure to use them with caution.

How to tape a ripped dollar bill

For the record, we do not recommend this practice. However, if you must tape a ripped paper note, here’s how to do it.

To start, you will need some clear tape and a pair of scissors. Once you have the right materials, follow these steps:

How to tape a ripped dollar bill

  1. Cut a piece of clear tape that is slightly larger than the rip in the note.
  2. Place the tape over the rip, being careful to smooth out any air bubbles or wrinkles.
  3. Press down firmly on the tape to make sure it sticks well to the note.
  4. Trim the excess tape with the scissors, being careful not to cut the note.
  5. Your dollar bill should now be repaired and ready to use.

Note that if the bill is severely torn or damaged, you may want to consider replacing it with a new bill instead.

FAQ

Is mutilated money still considered legal tender?

Yes, ripped money is still considered legal tender in the United States, although it may be more difficult to use or exchange due to the damage. If you find yourself in possession of ripped money, you do have a few options, including exchanging the money at a bank or credit union, sending it to the BEP for exchange, or attempting to repair it yourself.

How do I exchange ripped money?

If you’re trying to pay for something with a ripped or damaged bill, think again! It’s not good practice to use money that’s all torn up. Instead, head on over to your local bank or credit union with your ID and the damaged cash.

At a bank, a teller will look at your damaged money and decide if it’s still usable or if it needs to be sent to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to be destroyed. If the money is still good, they will give you new cash in return. Keep in mind, however, that banks and credit unions are not required to exchange damaged money, so your local branch may not accept your ripped bills. In that case, you may need to find a different financial institution or send your damaged money to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing yourself.

Pro Tip

Avoid trying to fix ripped money yourself! According to the Federal Reserve, repaired money might not be accepted as payment if it looks like it’s been altered or forged, so it’s best to leave repairing damaged money to a professional.

Who will accept ripped money?

Banks, credit unions, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will usually accept money that has been ripped or mutilated and exchange it for new money. However, it is typically not acceptable to present torn or damaged currency as payment for goods or services.

Merchants and businesses are not required to accept ripped money as payment. The United States Federal Reserve recommends that individuals with torn or otherwise damaged currency take it to a bank or credit union to exchange it for undamaged currency. The financial institution will determine if the damaged currency can be exchanged or if it needs to be sent to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for destruction.

Can you use ripped money?

Technically, you can try to spend ripped money. However, the merchant or business whose goods or services you are trying to purchase is not required to accept your damaged bills. Generally, it is recommended that you take your ripped money to a financial institution and exchange it for undamaged currency instead.

Can I exchange damaged money at the bank?

Yes, you can usually exchange damaged currency at a bank or credit union. These financial institutions are required to exchange mutilated or damaged currency that is more than 50% intact and clearly not counterfeit. If more than one-half of the original note appears to be damaged, it will be sent to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to be examined and, if possible, exchanged.

To exchange damaged currency at a bank or credit union, you will need to present the damaged currency and provide identification. The financial institution will examine the currency, and if it is deemed exchangeable, you will receive undamaged currency in exchange. If the currency is determined to be beyond repair or not genuine, however, it will be sent to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to be destroyed.

It is important to note that banks and credit unions are not required to exchange damaged currency, and they may refuse to do so at their discretion.

Can you tape ripped or mutilated currency?

Technically, it is possible to tape ripped money in an attempt to repair it, but this is generally not recommended. Taped currency will likely not be accepted as payment because it may appear to be altered or forged. Additionally, the tape may not hold up well over time, and the currency may become further damaged and eventually disintegrate.

If you have ripped currency, it is best to take it to a bank or credit union to exchange it for undamaged money. If the damaged currency is determined to be beyond repair, the financial institution will send it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to be destroyed.

What can you do with badly soiled paper notes?

If you have badly soiled paper notes that are no longer fit for circulation, you can submit a claim to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing for possible compensation. To submit a claim for mutilated currency, you will need to fill out a Standard Form 1153 and provide as much information as possible about the damaged money, including the denominations and serial numbers of the notes, if possible.

If the BEP is able to determine the value of the mutilated currency, you will be issued a check for the full value of the notes. If they are unable to determine the value of the currency, they may be able to offer partial compensation. In order to receive compensation, you will need to provide satisfactory proof of ownership and submit the mutilated currency to the BEP for examination.

If you are unable to provide enough information about the mutilated money, or if the BEP is unable to determine its value, it is generally best to dispose of the notes and obtain new ones from a bank or other financial institution.

Can you glue ripped money?

It is generally not advisable to try to glue ripped money, as the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing does not accept mutilated currency for exchange if it has been repaired or altered in any way. If you have mutilated money, you can submit a claim to the BEP for possible compensation.

If the tear in your banknote is not particularly severe and you must repair it yourself, it is generally a better idea to tape it rather than glue it.

Will ATMs take torn money?

It is usually not possible to insert torn or damaged currency into an ATM, as most ATMs are designed to reject bills that are damaged or otherwise not in good condition. This is because torn or damaged bills may not be accepted as payment by merchants or businesses, and it may be difficult to determine the value of the money if it is severely damaged.

What is the average lifespan of a dollar bill?

The average lifespan of U.S. paper currency varies by denomination. According to the Federal Reserve, these are the average lifespans of U.S. dollar bills by value:

DenominationAverage lifespanNumber of bills in circulation
$16.6 years13.1 billion
$54.7 years3.2 billion
$105.3 years2.3 billion
$207.8 years11.7 billion
$5012.2 years2.3 billion
$10022.9 years16.4 billion

It is worth noting that these numbers are averages; individual bills may last longer or shorter depending on a variety of factors, including how they are handled and stored. The Federal Reserve has a program in place to monitor the condition of U.S. money currently in use and remove damaged or worn bills from circulation. This helps ensure that the currency in circulation is in good condition and can be easily accepted as payment.

What is the oldest note currently in existence?

Attention, history buffs! Did you know that the oldest surviving paper money in the world is actually from China? In fact, it’s believed that the Chinese invented not only paper, but also paper money during the reign of Emperor Chen Tsung around the early 1000s.

Fast forward to 1923, when Dr. Richard Ehrenfeld from Vienna sent a letter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art claiming to have the oldest banknote in existence: a one kuan note from the Ming dynasty, dated around 1375! This precious piece of paper was discovered in Beijing in 1888 and acquired by Ehrenfeld’s paper money–collecting father. However, when the museum passed the letter on to the American Numismatic Society (ANS), curator Howland Wood had some disappointing news for Ehrenfeld: this particular note was only worth about five dollars, not the fifty thousand dollars Ehrenfeld had hoped for.

As it turns out, these notes were not as rare as Ehrenfeld had thought, with several others in circulation in New York alone. However, it’s still fascinating to hold one of these historical artifacts in your hands — they’re quite large (measuring 22.5 cm x 33.5 cm), and they are made of thick, textured mulberry paper with black and vermilion ink. The center of the note even includes a warning to anyone thinking about counterfeiting it, stating that “the counterfeiter shall summarily be decapitated.” Talk about harsh consequences!

Which are the most resistant and durable notes in the world?

The most resistant and durable banknotes in the world are typically made from synthetic polymer materials, such as polypropylene or biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP). These materials are resistant to tearing, folding, and water damage and they can withstand high temperatures and sunlight without fading or discoloring.

Many countries have adopted polymer banknotes, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and several countries in Southeast Asia and South America. In addition to their durability, polymer notes are more difficult to counterfeit due to their advanced security features.

Paper banknotes are generally less durable than polymer notes, but they can still be quite resistant if they are properly cared for and made from high-quality cotton or linen fibers. Some of the longest-lasting paper banknotes are those from the Bank of England, which are printed on high-quality cotton fiber paper and can last for several years with proper handling.

Key Takeaways

  • Ripped money is still considered legal tender in the United States, as long as the damage to the note is not so severe that it renders the bill difficult to read and handle.
  • Money is considered “mutilated” when it is so severely damaged that it is unfit for circulation. Unfit bills that are taken out of circulation are either turned into compost or shredded and recycled (and in some cases turned into fun souvenirs!).
  • Most businesses will be hesitant to accept money with significant damage. However, if a merchant is willing to accept a ripped bill, it can still be used to make purchases.
  • Instead of risking a merchant rejecting a ripped bill, it is usually better to exchange the damaged money for undamaged currency at a bank or other financial institution.
  • If more than half of the original bill is still intact and readable, it can usually be exchanged at a bank or credit union.
  • If a bill is so badly damaged that it is deemed “mutilated,” you may be able to receive compensation for it by submitting it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
View Article Sources
  1. What to Do with Ripped, Torn or Damaged Money – Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
  2. Fitness Guidelines for Federal Reserve Notes – Federal Reserve Banks
  3. What to do with ripped, torn or damaged money? Can you spend it? – Foreign Currency and Coin Exchange
  4. Can I Still Use Cash If It’s Torn? – Money.com
  5. How long is the lifespan of U.S. paper money? – Federal Reserve Board
  6. The World’s Oldest Surviving Paper Money – American Numismatic Society
  7. Economy Museum at the St. Louis Fed – Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
  8. How Much Cash Should I Have On Hand? – SuperMoney
  9. America’s Best And Worst Banks – SuperMoney
  10. 25 Ways You Are Wasting Cash Without Even Knowing It! – SuperMoney
  11. How To Deposit a Paper Check on Cash App – Complete Guide – SuperMoney
  12. Silver Certificate Dollar Bill: What Is It Worth Today? – SuperMoney