Dollar bills go through vending machines, sit in wallets, and change hands many times throughout their circulation. This can cause them to lose their crisp appearance and get creased, worn, and folded. On average, a dollar bill only lasts for about 21 months before it needs to be retired.
If you have some crumpled-up cash that looks like it’s seen better days, you may be wondering if you can deposit old dollar bills in an ATM. Here’s an overview of how ATMs work to help you decide what to do with your cash.
What Happens If You Deposit Old Dollar Bills in an ATM?
ATMs have scanners inside them that read your bills and verify that they’re real. Sometimes these scanners can have a hard time processing older bills, especially if they’re worn out, damaged, or dirty.
Depositing Worn Out Bills
If your dollar bill is worn out or dirty, it may be rejected when you try to deposit it in an ATM. But don’t worry—if the ATM can’t take your damaged bills, the machine will usually spit them out and return them to you. Then you can take them into the bank and ask the teller to manually deposit them into your account.
However, if your old bill is torn and missing crucial information like the serial number, your bank may not be able to accept it. If this happens, you can usually send it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C. to get it replaced.
Send the damaged cash in an envelope and include a letter that explains how it got torn. Keep in mind that you’ll usually have to wait six months or more to get your refund. And if the bills are just too disintegrated to be recognized as US currency, you may not be able to get your money back.
Depositing Decades-Old Bills
What if you have a bill that’s a couple of decades-old but still in good condition? Older bills that are still crisp may also be rejected because the ATM can’t recognize them.
One dollar bills have had the same design since the 1960s, which makes them easy for ATMs to process. But higher denomination bills were revamped beginning in 1990 to include modern security features. So if you found a $10 bill from before then, the ATM may have trouble recognizing it as valid.
If the machine thinks your bills are counterfeit because they don’t have security strips, it will hold onto them. That’s why it’s a good idea to bring larger bills inside the bank if they’re older. The teller will know how to handle them and deposit them for you.
ATMs are machines that sometimes make mistakes. They often can’t recognize worn, outdated, or dirty bills. They may even have trouble accepting older bills that don’t have security strips.
So if you’re ever in doubt about the condition or age of your cash, it’s best to deposit it inside the bank, even if it’s less convenient than using the ATM.
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Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.