Know the appearance and value of the most common forms of US currency.

No matter where you go or what you do in America, you will want to have some form of US currency with you at all times.

Yes, credit cards are common, but they aren’t yet accepted everywhere. And anyway, a few bills or coins will come in handy when you need a trip on public transportation, copies in the public library, or maybe just an emergency snack! Understanding the value of each form of US currency will give you a head start as a new resident of America.

US Currency: Coins

Penny

  • Value: 1 cent. 100 pennies = $1
  • Color: Copper
  • On Side 1: President Abraham Lincoln
  • On Side 2: Lincoln Memorial
  • Notes: A penny won’t buy you much (if anything). You usually can’t use pennies even in vending machines or parking meters.

Nickel

  • Value: 5 cents. 20 nickels = $1
  • Color: Silver
  • On Side 1: President Thomas Jefferson
  • On Side 2: Monticello (Jefferson’s home)
  • Notes: Like the penny, a nickel won’t buy much. You usually can use nickels in vending machines and parking meters.

Dime

  • Value: 10 cents. 10 dimes= $1
  • Color: Silver
  • On Side 1: President Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • On Side 2: torch
  • Notes: This is the smallest US coin.

Quarter

  • Value: 25 cents. 4 quarters = $1
  • Color: Silver
  • On Side 1: President George Washington
  • On Side 2: eagle, or emblem representing one of the 50 states
  • Notes: The quarter is probably the most useful coin of US currency. This is often the only type of coin you can use to wash clothes at a laundromat, get candy from a gumball machine and play a game of pool at a bar.

Half Dollar

  • Value: 50 cents. 2 half dollars= $1
  • Color: Silver
  • On Side 1: President John F. Kennedy
  • On Side 2: eagle
  • Notes: This is the largest of US coins, but it is not commonly used.

Dollar Coin

  • Value: $1
  • Color: Gold
  • On Side 1: Sacagawea, a native American
  • On Side 2: bald eagle
  • Notes: Like the half dollar, this coin is not commonly used.

US Currency: Bills

$1 Bill

  • On Side 1: President George Washington
  • On Side 2: pyramid, eagle and the word “ONE”
  • Notes: Probably the most common and useful form of US currency.

$2 Bill

  • On Side 1: President Thomas Jefferson
  • On Side 2: Scene from the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Notes: The $2 bill is rarely used and it is extremely uncommon to receive one as change from a store. If you want a $2 bill, you may have to request it from a bank.

$5 Bill

  • On Side 1: President Abraham Lincoln
  • On Side 2: Lincoln Memorial
  • Notes: Very common.

$10 Bill

  • On Side 1: Alexander Hamilton
  • On Side 2: US Treasury
  • Notes: Very common.

$20 Bill

  • On Side 1: President Andrew Jackson
  • On Side 2: White House
  • Notes: Very common.

$50 Bill

  • On Side 1: President Ulysses S Grant
  • On Side 2: US Capitol
  • Notes: This bill often won’t be accepted by small stores.

$100 Bill

  • On Side 1: Benjamin Franklin
  • On Side 2: Independence Hall
  • Notes: This bill often won’t be accepted by small stores. Unless you are planning a large purchase at a major store, you may find it more convenient to go to a bank and exchange your $100 bill for $10 or $20 bills.

US currency has many names, from the common (money, cash, bucks), to the not-so-common (greenbacks), to the downright silly (moolah). No matter what you call it, be sure to keep some form of US currency in your pocket whenever you leave the house.