A dollar bill, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, circulates an average of only 21 months. It's just paper, after all, and it sees rough handling as it passes from person to person, including getting ripped. If you were passed a torn bill or, perhaps, tore it yourself, you can still probably recover its value. Depending on the damage and how much of the bill remains, your local bank or the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing will help you for free.
Compare the torn dollar bill with the intact dollar bill if the ripped bill is actually missing a piece. Check on whether or not more than half of the torn bill remains. Your conclusion will affect how you proceed next.
Tape together a dollar bill if you have all its pieces. Be neat and try to fit the edges together as precisely as possible.
Present to any commercial bank taped up bills; bills that are torn, but still attached; and pieces of dollars that are larger than half of an intact bill. You can recover the value of your money immediately if your dollar is not mutilated. If the bank won't exchange your torn bill for a fresh one, you may need to send it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Write a letter to the BEP if the bank was no help, saying how much the bill is worth and how the bill became mutilated. Mutilated money includes torn specimens that are not clearly bigger than half a bill. Keep in mind that to recover the value of the bill, the BEP must decide that the larger, missing portion of the money has been destroyed.
Pack the letter and money for mailing. Use whatever packaging will least disturb the money as it is in its damaged condition. The BEP will examine the bills to determine original value, so it's important that heavily ripped up bills make it without any further damage.
Mail the money by registered mail, requesting a return receipt. The package should be sent to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, MCD/OFM, BEPA, Room 344A, P.O. Box 37048, Washington, D.C.
To check on the status of money you sent to the BEP, you can call the Mutilated Currency Division at 866-575-2361.
- Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta: Circulation of Money
- Federal Reserve Bank Services; Mutilated Currency and Coin; Currency Procedures
- Bureau of Engraving and Printing, U.S. Department of the Treasury: Damaged Currency
- Bureau of Engraving and Printing, U.S. Department of the Treasury: How to Submit a Claim
Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.