How to Identify Mutilated Currency

Guidelines for Assessing Mutilated Currency Notes and Coins

If all the criteria in stage 1 are met, the currency note will proceed to stage 2 assessment. In stage 2, the refund value for a mutilated note is assessed based on the portion of the note remaining according to the following guidelines:

  • Perforated or portions missing.
  • (For Third Series $1 bi-metallic coins) The coin has not been dislodged.
  • Scorched or burnt.
  • If you have provided supporting evidence about the circumstances leading to the mutilation, the evidence will also be assessed for its reasonableness.

Refer to the following for examples of mutilated coins.

What to Do with Mutilated Notes and Coins

Refund value

  • The coin has not been damaged by being cut, chipped, holed, warped, dented or defaced.


  • (In addition, for 1,000 and $10,000 notes) At least five complete digits or letters of both sets of serial numbers should be present before any refund value is assessed.
  • Name of the bank.

You may deposit mutilated notes or coins at any commercial bank where you have a bank account for assessment of value. For mutilated coins, you may also deposit them at MAS’ appointed Circulation Coin Operator and Manager (CCOM), Certis CISCO Secure Logistics Pte Ltd (CSL) . The bank or CSL will credit the assessed value awarded to your bank account. MAS may, out of goodwill and at its absolute discretion, award value for a mutilated currency note or coin, provided there is no evidence suggesting that the note or coin has been wilfully or deliberately mutilated.

Assessment criteria for mutilated coins

About Mutilated Currency

  • There is no evidence to suggest that the coin has been wilfully or deliberately damaged.

For damaged coins

  • A refund of up to full face value of the original note may be paid, if MAS is satisfied that the method of mutilation and supporting evidence show that the missing portions of the note have been destroyed or will not be awarded any refund value in the future.

1/3 or less of the original currency note is present Note: There is no refund value for coins that are cut, chipped, holed, warped, dented, defaced or dislodged (in the case of Third Series $1 coins).

  • Attacked by pests and insects.
  • The bank or CSL branch.
  • Dislodged (in the case of Third Series $1 bi-metallic coins).

Assessment criteria for mutilated notes

  • If two or more portions of a note are present, the refund value that may be paid will be assessed based on the sum of the individual portions presented, provided there is no evidence to suggest that the portions are from different notes.

Mutilated notes are assessed in 2 stages. Refer to the following to find out how you can identify if your note or coin is damaged. If you have problems getting the mutilated notes and coins accepted by the bank or CSL, write in to MAS via the online feedback form with the following details, where applicable: Half face value

  • The coin has been validated to be genuine.

Full face value

  • The bank or CSL counter staff’s name.
  • Holed, chipped or cut.
  • Defaced by markings or writings of words, figures and others.

Note: It is an offence to mutilate any notes or coins. If you are aware of any deliberate acts of mutilation to currency, you can file a police report and inform MAS via the online feedback form . Under the Currency Act , mutilated notes and coins command no value. No person is entitled to recover from MAS the value of any mutilated note or coin. Merchants may also refuse to accept mutilated notes or coins.

  • There is no evidence to suggest that the note has been wilfully or deliberately damaged.
    In stage 1, the following will have to be met:

Portion Remaining For damaged notes No value

  • Defaced by stamping or engraving.
  • Stained by ink, paint or other chemicals.

Notes may be defined as mutilated if they are:

  • The note has been validated to be genuine.
  • The date and time you attempted to deposit the damaged currency at the bank or CSL.

More than 1/3, but less than 2/3, of the original currency note is present A refund of face value for mutilated coins will only be considered if all the following criteria are met: Coins may be considered mutilated or damaged if they are: At least 2/3 of the original currency note is present chihuahua and dollars This is a story of a boy, his dog and the trail of torn twenties. The boy was going off to a high-school football game. He grabbed some cash in a hurry and then left the remaining bills on his bed. The dog saw the boy leave and jumped onto his favorite spot, the boy’s bed. How nice of the boy to leave him something crisp to chew. The dog happily ripped into the greens. Just how many Jacksons did our dog Phoenix eat? And what would we have to do to recover the cash? As I gathered up the tiny bits of paper on the bedroom floor, I gently scolded my little buddy by telling our corgi that this kind of cash could have bought a nice meal out. Once my son got home from the game, I asked him how much money he left on that bed. Obviously, as a teenage boy, he hedged and was pretty sure he only left two twenties and an untouched $10 bill. But I was pretty sure I spotted a bit more green when Phoenix made his next deposit on the lawn the following morning. What do you do when your dog eats your cash? My cousin’s wife, who helps out at her church, said people there sometimes stuff their envelopes with torn bills. The church sends that money to the bank. Whether a local institution will accept your damaged money depends on the condition of it. One credit union told me it would accept mutilated cash if at least three-quarters of the bill is intact, including three corners, and the serial numbers are visible. PNC Bank told me that it generally accepts damaged currency if more than half of the bill is remaining with a full serial number on one half and a partial on the other. But for truly mutilated bills due to burning, exposure to chemicals or dyes, the bank advises customers to contact the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Comerica Bank said its policy is to refer customers to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing if 49% or more of the bill is missing or in such a condition that the value is questionable. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing has a how-to online to tell consumers what to do with mutilated cash. It seems dogs do eat money. A Montana man saw five $100 bills go to a dog, according to a Reuters report. Sundance, a golden retriever, found the cash in a car. The man recovered the digested bills and took them, taped up, to a local bank, but was turned away. He ended up mailing the recovered bills to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and eventually received a $500 check. Money gets mangled for all sorts of reasons. Some people bury their cash in the ground and the paper currency can deteriorate in the earth, if not properly protected. Some recommend using PVC piping to keep dirt away from the cash if you bury money. Or some people hide their cash in the attic or a wall, forget about it and then see piles of cash destroyed by termites or furry critters. Money can be damaged by floods or fire. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s website says mutilated currency may be mailed or personally delivered to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C. «When mutilated currency is submitted, a letter should be included stating the estimated value of the currency and an explanation of how the currency became mutilated,» the website says. How long it can take to get that money replaced varies based on the extent of the damage and the overall workload. Standard claims can take six to 36 months to process. The government generally wants to see at least 51% of each note. But there are cases where less can be exchanged if the Treasury is satisfied that the missing pieces have been totally destroyed. About 20,000 to 30,000 individuals send money each year to the bureau to get mutilated currency replaced. I waited a few months after the dog chowed down on the cash because I was not sure what to do. Yes, I did take a dog shaming picture with that cash for fun. I’d guess that my cash might be called a category one in terms of damage. It didn’t take more than 30 minutes or so to tape together. Most of each bill was there, maybe 75% or 80% of each one. Some money that the engraving bureau has to piece together looks far worse. So, I went to my bank branch, pulled a plastic bag out of my purse and mumbled to the teller: «My dog ate my twenties.» The teller kindly quipped: «That’s an expensive habit.» But the teller exchanged my twenties for complete bills. A co-worker next to him only told my teller to make sure that the serial numbers were intact, which they were. This story of the boy, his dog and torn twenties clearly had one of those happy Hollywood endings. We even cashed in at the box office. But really, we will be more careful to avoid a sequel. Contact Susan Tompor: 313-222-8876 or [email protected] What do you do with damaged cash? • Banks can exchange some mangled money for customers. Typically, badly soiled, dirty, defaced, disintegrated and torn bills can be exchanged through your local bank if more than half of the original note remains. These notes would be exchanged through your bank and processed by the Federal Reserve Bank. • If the money is severely damaged, see steps for how to redeem mutilated currency at • If you need to send your mutilated cash to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, take care to follow some tips. If the currency was mutilated in a purse, box or other container, it should be left in the container to protect the fragments from further damage. Contact Susan Tompor: 313-222-8876 or [email protected] Man flips through stack of 20 dollar bills. The Federal Reserve has 28 cash offices that help ensure currency is fit for circulation. The St. Louis Fed alone inspected over 934 million notes in 2021. This post, originally published Oct. 30, 2019, has updates on currency inspection numbers. Cash. Moolah. Dough. Currency. Money. These terms probably elicit images of crisp paper bills or stacks of brand-new bank notes, right? But what happens to old or worn out money? The bills that are torn, covered in graffiti or at the end of their life cycle — what happens to those? Generally speaking, U.S. paper currency that’s no longer fit for circulation is removed from circulation by the Federal Reserve System. However, different fates can befall a bill, and there are different processes for handling money depending on what happened to it. If you’re questioning whether there’s any bang left in your buck, it’s important to know what kind of damage you’re dealing with. Read on for definitions and what to do with old money.

Torn? Worn? Defaced? You might have “unfit” currency

The Federal Reserve System is responsible for placing paper bills into circulation. This happens via 28 cash offices—from Boston to Dallas to San Francisco. The St. Louis Fed’s currency operations are housed at our headquarters and our Memphis Branch. Just as the Fed is responsible for placing cash into circulation, it takes unfit currency out of circulation. The definition of unfit currency, from the Federal Reserve System’s Cash Product Office, is a “note that is not suitable for further circulation because of its physical condition” due to being:

  • torn
  • worn
  • limp
  • dirty
  • defaced

“About 85% of the currency that gets deposited with us is fit,” says a representative with our currency team, serving the Eighth Federal Reserve District. “Torn, worn, limp, dirty, defaced—we call those defects. That’s what our machines look for.” After a Federal Reserve bank receives cash deposits from commercial banks, highly trained employees can detect unfit cash in two ways:

  1. via complex, high-speed equipment
  2. by examining the note firsthand

“For example, if we’re able to determine that the note is torn, depending on to what degree, our machines can determine whether that money can come out of circulation. The machine does the largest percentage of that,” explains our currency expert. “If the machines can’t make a clear determination of how dirty, limp, worn or defaced it is, or if there’s something suspect about the note that the machine cannot ascertain, then it is evaluated by a person,” he says.

What to do with a bill you think could be “unfit”:

The Fed’s Cash Product Office guide (PDF) gets detailed about what constitutes “unfit,” down to the reflectivity of a note. If you don’t happen to have a densitometer handy, the Cash Product Office offers this advice: When in doubt, you may seek to exchange a worn note at your local commercial bank. Six bags of shredded money souvenirs from the Economy Museum Bonus: Get your free bag of “Fed shreds” (shredded currency) by visiting our Economy Museum. As long as more than half of the original note is clearly present—and it doesn’t take special examination to determine the note’s value—a commercial bank can then include the note in its deposit to the Federal Reserve.

What happens to unfit currency?

Once an unfit note is detected, it is separated from normal circulation. Unfit notes used to be burned to prevent their re-entry into circulation. Now, unfit bills arriving at the St. Louis Fed’s facility downtown are shredded and recycled or turned into compost.

Burned? Deteriorated? You might have “mutilated” money

Mutilated currency, meanwhile, refers to a note that has been damaged so badly that 50% or less of it remains, or its condition is such that its value is questionable. It may be missing a watermark or security features, like a thread or ribbon. Currency mutilation can occur from fire, misuse, or even deterioration from burying money. The Federal Reserve does not accept deposits of mutilated currency from banks. In this case, special examination is required by pros at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) before any exchange is made.

What to do if you have a mutilated bill:

Our currency representative advises that consumers directly contact the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It offers a step-by-step guide to redeeming mutilated currency, along with how to file a mutilated currency claim. “The BEP will evaluate the note,” he explains. “They have special tools to examine the authenticity and assess the full value of the note. After they do that, they can issue a check back to the consumer.”

What happens to mutilated currency?

The BEP is part of the U.S. Treasury Department; disposal of mutilated money is handled through this agency. The Treasury says that every year it receives an average of more than 22,000 requests for examination of currency with an estimated value of more than $35 million for possible redemption.

Moldy? Exposed to chemicals? You might have “contaminated” currency

In some cases, money may be exposed to contaminants. The definition of contaminated currency is a note damaged by, or exposed to, a contaminant to the extent that it cannot be processed under normal operating procedures—or may pose a health or safety risk. Paper bills can become contaminated due to:

  • prolonged exposure to moisture, resulting in mold
  • exposure to sewage or animal waste
  • exposure to a chemical, liquid or foreign substance that may pose a health hazard or safety risk

Our currency representative says that floods, for example, can lead to unknown contaminants being introduced into floodwater, which could contaminate currency and call for special handling.

What to do if you have contaminated currency:

If you believe that your currency is contaminated, you may be able to deposit it at a commercial bank. Our currency expert advises that you provide as much information as possible about what happened to the note(s). Consult with your local commercial bank branch for further instructions. The Federal Reserve has detailed guidelines for depository institutions on how to handle and package contaminated currency.

What happens to contaminated currency?

Due to potential health / safety risks, contaminated currency is not recycled. Our currency representative assures us that it is disposed of safely.

Here’s how long money typically lasts in circulation

Made of 75% cotton and 25% linen, U.S. paper notes are designed to withstand a lot of use. How long a piece of money lasts in circulation often depends on the value of the note. Take a look at the average lifespan of currency in the U.S.

Average lifespan of a bill
Denomination Estimated Lifespan How Many are in Circulation?
$1 6.6 years 13.1 billion
$5 4.7 years 3.2 billion
$10 5.3 years 2.3 billion
$20 7.8 years 11.7 billion
$50 12.2 years 2.3 billion
$100 22.9 years 16.4 billion
Notes: Estimated lifespans as of December 2018. Yearly circulation volume updated as of 2020.
Sources: Federal Reserve Board, «How long is the lifespan of U.S. paper money?»; and FRED release table, Volume of Currency in Circulation by Denomination.

Notice the varying years for each denomination of currency. So, why is the average lifespan of a $5 or $10 bill so much shorter than that of a $100 bill? According to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, “larger denominations such as $100 notes are often used as a store of value, which means they pass between users less frequently than lower-denominations such as $5 notes, which are more often used for transactions.”

Did you know? …

Access to clean, safe cash is vital during hurricanes, floods, tornadoes—and even after tragedies like the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. After Hurricane Katrina, power outages that affected a wide area of the Gulf Coast meant no access to ATMs and no ability to use credit cards or process checks. The importance of cash is vital in situations like these. Having Federal Reserve System cash offices across the country helps money move to necessary places as quickly as possible. According to Karl Ashman, an executive vice president at the St. Louis Fed, our Memphis Branch played an important role post-Katrina. “The fact that we were able to provide currency, we kept the economy flowing so that even in a dire situation, people could still get the basic necessities of life,” Ashman said.

More to Explore

  • Four Simple Ways to Spot Counterfeit Currency
  • How to find out where your currency originates
  • St. Louis Fed Careers: Join Our Currency Operations Team

About the Author Laura Taylor Laura Taylor Laura Taylor is a manager with the St. Louis Fed External Engagement and Corporate Communications Division. Laura Taylor Laura Taylor Laura Taylor is a manager with the St. Louis Fed External Engagement and Corporate Communications Division. If you believe the coin has been contaminated, please refer to the Contaminated Coin section for information on decontaminating the coin. The Federal Reserve does not accept deposits of Contaminated Coin. Washington, DC 20228 – OR – The Federal Reserve DOES NOT accept deposits of mutilated currency. Mutilated currency must be sent directly to the BEP’s Mutilated Currency Division (Off-site), with a letter stating the estimated value of the currency and an explanation of how the currency became mutilated, to the correct address below based on the shipping method. P.O. Box 37048
14th and C Streets, SW If using a private carrier, please use the following street address:

  • More than 50% of a note identifiable as United States currency is present.

Mutilated currency is a note that has been damaged to the extent that one-half or less of the note remains, or its value is questionable and special examination by trained experts at the Department of the Treasury or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) (Off-site) is required before any exchange is made.

Currency Procedures

For more information about FedCash Services processing and operations, visit the FedCash pages or consult your local FedCash Services contact. Top of Page Bent or partial coin must be sent to the U.S. Mint. You must complete a mutilated coin submission application prior to shipping the coin. For information on the submission application, including the shipping instructions, refer to the U.S. Mint’s Redemption Program (Off-site). Any badly soiled, dirty, defaced, disintegrated, limp, torn or worn out currency note that is clearly more than one-half of the original note, and does not require special examination to determine its value, is not considered mutilated and should be included in your normal deposit.

  • 50% or less of a note identifiable as United States currency is present and the method of mutilation and supporting evidence demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Treasury that the missing portions have been totally destroyed. Burnt currency that is clearly less than one-half a complete note, and cannot be handled without compromising its integrity, is considered mutilated currency.

If using the United States Postal Service (USPS), please use the following P.O Box and specific zip code:

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Coin Procedures

The best method to contact the BEP’S Mutilated Currency Division for information about pending cases is via their email address: [email protected]. You may call the BEP’s toll-free number (866) 575-2361, to obtain information on a mutilated currency claim. Under regulations issued by the Department of the Treasury, mutilated United States currency may be exchanged at face value if: Mutilated Currency Division, Room 344-A

Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP)
The Federal Reserve DOES NOT accept deposits of bent or partial coin.Bent or partial coin is coin that has been bent or twisted out of shape, punched, clipped, plugged, fused, or defaced, but that can be identified as to genuineness and denomination. Bent or partial coin is not redeemable at face value; it is redeemable only at its bullion (metal) value as established by the Director of the U.S. Mint.Washington, DC 20013

If you believe the mutilated currency has also been contaminated, such that it may pose a health or safety risk, write the word “Contaminated “ on all internal packaging (not on the outside of the mailing container) and include a description of the contaminant, if known, in your letter to the BEP. For additional non-mutilated contaminated currency depositing information, please refer to the Contaminated Currency section. About Currency Exchange International

How to Submit A Damaged Currency Claim

This letter should also include the bank account information and routing number for your account at a U.S. bank. Make sure that you carefully package your money to avoid further damage. Your case may take between six months to thirty-six months to process. In the meantime, if you need to contact the Mutilated Currency Division about your pending case, the best way to reach them is via their email address: [email protected]

  • Water

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Do you have money that is broken, burned, or otherwise damaged? The Mutilated Currency Division at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) does a great job of examining your damaged currency and reimbursing you for it! Check out the video below to learn how they do it. To submit your damaged currency, you can personally deliver it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, or you can mail it there. You must include a letter with the estimated value of your currency, your contact information, and details on how the currency came to be damaged.

  • Petrification or deterioration by burying

As you can see, almost all of these are out of one’s control. Eric Walsh, the Assistant Manager of the Mutilated Currency Division, explains that they just want to provide relief for people around the country. After natural disasters, more and more cases of mutilated currency arise. If you are hand delivering to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, make sure you know their hours of operation and find out when they may or not be closed.

Why Does the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing Do This?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the most commons causes of currency damage are: Wildfires, hurricanes, and other serious events can put you in a situation where you need to replace your money. Don’t worry! This team is here to help you and we’re happy to recommend them to you.

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Since this is a free service, you may be wondering why the Mutilated Currency Division provides this help for individuals around the country?

  • Explosives
  • Animal, insect, or rodent damage
  • Chemicals

Currency Exchange International (CXI) is a leading provider of foreign currency exchange services in North America for financial institutions, corporations and travelers. Products and services for international travelers include access to buy and sell more than 90 foreign currencies, multi-currency cash passport’s, traveler’s cheques and gold bullion coins and bars. For financial institutions and corporations, our services include the exchange of foreign currencies, international wire transfers, global EFT, the purchase and sale of foreign bank drafts, international traveler’s cheques, and foreign cheque clearing through the use of CXI’s innovative CEIFX web-based FX software

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