How much has to be missing from paper money before it useless?

Well, I am sitting here in my office counting some cash. One of the $20 bills I have is missing about 1/8 of the bill. On the back side (its Canadian) the first 3 digits (letters) of the serial number are gone. I think it should still be OK but I am not sure. Does anyone know if the bank going to accept it or not? How much has to be gone before it is worthless?

I think the rule in the States is that a bill must be more than 50% intact to be legal tender. One might assume the same holds for other countries, but that might be going too far.

I seem to remember seeing something on TV once where if a significant enough piece of a bill is missing, a bank will accept it for the value of the remaining part, and then put the bill out of circulation. I remember the guy brought about half of a $5 (CDN) to a Royal Bank, and they used this little grid to determine how much of the bill was left. The guy got back about $2.40 or something. You might want to check with a bank, though. Sorry, I don’t have a cite for this, though now that I think about it, it might have been on StreetCents (CBC).

I was all ready with an answer until I saw that damn word “Canadian.” Going on the assumption that Canadian policy is similar to U.S. policy, the answer is as long as you have more than half the bill, it’s good. From the U.S. Treasury site:

I’ve always heard that 60% was the minimum acceptable portion for paper currency in the United States.

They change the rules sometimes. I took a burned Bill to the bank here in the US, it was complete & you could see all of it but brownish. They would not take it. I should have put it in bleach, it would make it whiter & then they would probably take it as I did this once with another torched dollar.

I think one possible problem, handy, is that the government destroys bills by burning them, so banks may not like to takes burnts bills (depending how burnt). Plus they can be messy.

My question has always been whether a bank will accept a bill in more than one piece. I believe the bank will accept a bill that has been ripped down the middle- two 50% pieces. However, what if I ripped a bill down the middle, then ripped 1/4 of another, comepletely different bill, and presented the two pieces (1/2 and 1/4). If the bank would accept this, then couldn’t I take the other half of the bill I ripped in half, and rip 1/4 of yet another completely different bill, and get a new dollar for this? I would then have gotten two bills for one, with two bills with 3/4 left. Of course, I’m sure the banks have already considered this.

So, I’m the only one here who is a little worried as to WHY handy seems to have a lot of these torched bills around the house???


I’m sure it was just the result of some wacky Planes, Trains, and Automobiles-style mishap. :slight_smile:

I’m pretty sure in Canada for a bill to be legal tender you have to have both complete serial numbers. A bank might still take the bill but I am not sure.

I had a pamphlet once upon a time from the U.S. Treasury which said that they could accept 51% of a bill for its full amount, but there was some stipulation I can’t exactly recall involving the seal. But probably this information is available in the gov. docs section of your public library.

Here’s the Bank of Canada’s web page on mutilated bank notes. They don’t really go into specifics on percentages and what-not, but they do say

So it sounds like they will at least try to redeem some pretty tore-up bills. (It also sounds to me like this service may be more geared to “our armored car had a head-on collision with a gasoline tanker truck” than “I got drunk and lit a cigar with a twenty-dollar bill”.)

For a bill with 1/8 missing, I’d try just running it by the local regular bank and asking them if they’ll still take it. (This would probably be somewhat less complicated if you are actually in Canada, so you don’t have to get in to the whole foreign currency exchange thing on top of the damaged bill.) Or you could just take it to the grocery store and see if you can fob it off on them–maybe they’ll be so grateful you’re not writing a check in the express line…