US Currency

Now that you have landed in the United States it is important for you to learn about U.S. currency. This post covers everything you need to know about U.S. currency and explains the denominations of different bills and coins.


With the advent of electronic money, people prefer to make payments via credit cards. It will take some time to get credit cards initially. Hence, as a newcomer to the country, you must carry sufficient cash with you to purchase goods & services. Many mom-n-pop shops/ethnic stores accept cash only. Once you get credit cards, just keep a nominal amount of cash in the form of dollar bills and coins. Usually you will find the following dollar bills in circulation:

  • One dollar bill ($1)
  • Two dollar bill ($2)
  • Five dollar bill ($5)
  • Ten dollar bill ($10)
  • Twenty dollar bill ($20)
  • Fifty dollar bill ($50)
  • Hundred dollar bill ($100)

There are no higher denomination bills in circulation. If someone gives you see a $5000 or $10000 it may be a counterfeit bill or the giver must be a currency collector! Such bills are no longer in circulation. It is always best to carry a few $1, $10 or $20 bills in your wallet.


Coins are heavier than paper bills. Coins also have more life than bills. It is best to carry different coins as change. The commonly circulated coins in U.S. exist in the following denominations:
  • Penny/Cent ($0.01)
  • Nickel ($0.05)
  • Dime ($0.10)
  • Quarter ($0.25)
  • Fifty cents ($0.50)
  • One Dollar ($1.00)

It is a good idea to study these coins to learn the denominations. You must not assume that the denomination of a coin is reflected by the size of the coin (this means that a larger coin may not have a higher value and vice versa). Interestingly, the five cents coin is larger in size than the ten cents coin. Those who are unfamiliar with the denominations of these coins make a mistake in using these interchangeably.
Always keep lots of quarters in your wallet or in the coin compartment of your car. These are useful in paying for parking and elsewhere. It is better to carry dollar bills instead of coins as coins have more weight. When deciding what coins and bills to keep in your wallet, you must start with the basic guideline: ‘how much cash will I spend on any given day?’ Add to this number some cushion for contingencies (extra expenditure, unforeseen payment, etc). You will notice that once you get credit cards, the total amount of cash in your wallet will start decreasing. This is normal but you must always carry a couple of dollar bills with you.
For more information on the history of coins in U.S. you can read U.S. Coin Digest or visit the official website of United States Mint in the Treasury Department (