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What to Do with Ripped Money

Posted on January 2nd, 2023 by Scott Hershman

Finding a couple of dollar bills on the ground can be exciting, but realizing the bills are damaged can immediately ruin the mood.

While it is illegal to deface or destroy US currency, accidents do happen, and paper money is occasionally damaged by natural means. If you have damaged bills, you can take steps to restore their value.

Is it Illegal to Rip Money?

Under Title 18, Section 333 of the federal law, it is against the law to deface or destroy U.S. currency. However, it is unlikely for individuals to be caught or prosecuted for this type of crime.

And if you’ve ripped a bill on accident, don’t worry. You can take certain steps to restore your damaged money.

Is Ripped Money Still Good?

Ripped money may or may not be good to use, depending on the extent of the damage. For example, small rips or torn-off corners are usually not much cause for concern. However, large missing pieces or a bill that’s ripped in half completely most likely won’t be considered legal tender.

How Much of a Bill Can Be Missing?

Ripped money is still good if more than 50% of the bill is present. This means small tears in your money shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. However, if the bill has more extensive damage, you’ll need to exchange it for a fresh one at the bank before you can spend it at the store.

If you have less than half of the bill remaining, you need to contact the U.S. Treasury Department. They will determine if you are eligible for a replacement bill.

Where Can You Use Ripped Money?

Will Stores Still Take Ripped Money?

Most stores and merchants will not take bills that are ripped in half. Some may accept bills with small rips, or bills that have been successfully taped together, but this is up to the discretion of the merchant.

Will Banks Take Ripped in Half Bills?

If you have over 50% of the original torn bill and it’s easy to identify, most banks will exchange it for a fresh bill in the full amount. If a bill is completely ripped in half, you’ll need to bring both halves so the bank can verify its authenticity.

If less than 50% of the bill remains you’ll need to make a special request to the U.S. Treasury Department to determine if it can be exchanged for a fresh bill. If you don’t wish to go through this process, you won’t be able to use the damaged bill.

How to Fix Ripped Bills

Can You Tape Money Back Together?

The good news is that even if a bill is torn in half, you can tape the pieces together and exchange it at a Federal Reserve System bank for a fresh note, as long as the serial numbers on both sides match.

Keep in mind that once you tape a bill back together, you will have to exchange it before using it. Most stores, ATMS, and vending machines won’t accept bills that have been ripped, even if they are taped or glued together.

Exchanging Extremely Damaged Money

If your money is extremely damaged, you can mail bills to the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) for examination. They have a Mutilated Currency Division dedicated to examining damaged currency, and if your bill is approved they will send back an equivalent amount.

The bill(s) must meet one of two requirements to be eligible for an exchange from the BEP. First, more than 50% of the note is identifiable as United States currency. Alternatively, if there is less than 50% of the note intact, you must provide the other half of the note or evidence that shows the missing portion of the bill has been completely destroyed.

Speak to a Currency Expert

If you have questions about your ripped or damaged bills, speak to the currency experts at West Suburban Currency Exchanges. Our staff is knowledgeable in all types of money services, including check cashing, foreign money exchanges, prepaid debit cards, and Western Union money transfers.

Visit one of our convenient West Chicago locations today!

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