Why do people so rarely have $10 bills???

For several years now I have picked up odd shifts at a local music venue, working the door collecting the cover charge. I only work as a sub when the regular person needs the night off for one reason or another, but over the course of several years I’ve done the job quite a lot. When I’m not often needed it still works out to at least two shifts a month and there have been a few spells when I’ve worked 12 to 15 shifts a month. So, it has amounted to quite a bit of field research.

It is a cash only situation. The cover charge is almost always $6.00.[ul]
[li]Many people pay with a $20 bill[/li][li]A good number of good people pay exact change:[/li]of these, most pay with a $5 bill and a $1 bill
BUT it is not rare for someone to pay with six $1 bills
[li]Some people pay with two $5 bills[/li][/ul]

It is VERY VERY RARE that anyone ever pays with a $10 bill.

In a four hour shift, often I will not receive a single $10 bill. Not receiving $10 bills then, of course, means I don’t have $10 bills to give as change when someone pays with a $20 bill- in which case I make change by giving two $5 bills and four singles. Thus, the cycle continues: these people who did not have a $10 bill to begin with, still don’t have a $10 bill because I had to make their change with $5 bills.

Why don’t people ever have $10 bills?

IF the answer is as simple as: Cashiers (like me) don’t get $10 bills so they have to give change in multiples of $5 bills, therefore people who did not have a $10 bill to begin with, still don’t have a $10 bill- THEN aren’t $10 bills more pointless than the penny, which so many people want to eliminate because “pennies don’t circulate”?

On top of the factors that you mention, I usually get money via an ATM, rather than a teller. Frequently, ATMs are only loaded with twenties (and perhaps hundreds; I’m not usually taking out such large amounts that I’d be able to say), so in my wallet, I have whatever twenties I got from my last trip to an ATM, plus whatever change I’ve gotten as I’ve broken each twenty in turn. I almost always have a twenty, unless I have almost no money on me, but whether or not I have a ten depends on what change I’ve gotten recently.

ATMs give out $20s. If I withdraw $200, I have 10 of them. At any one time, I’ll have only 1 ten, from the last $20 I broke. If I buy anything more than $10, I won’t ever have a 10. It’ll just go from, say, $20 to $5. So only in half the situations where I make an exchange is it possible to end up with a $10 at all, and only 1 at a time. That’s assuming I get my $10 as a ten bill. As you mentioned, sometimes I only get 2 5s. Thus, you can count on a ten being present only about 25% of the time, maybe less.

It used to be common for ATMs to give a variety of denominations, including tens, but mostly seem to dispense twenties today. This always gives me a pocket full of them. If I use them on a $10-20 purchase, I don’t get a $10 bill in return. If it’s less I may get a ten or I may get two fives. In both cases I am likely to pile up ones. This greatly biases what I carry in favor of ones, fives, and twenties. It’s not like I never see a $10, but it is less common than it used to be.


What they said. I work in a bank; hardly anyone requests tens. They don’t have anywhere near the turnover as twenties and ones do.

Yup, my first thought was ATMs too. Around here, ATMs spit out $20s and $5s. Ask for $30, and you get a $20 and two $5s.

Oddly enough, I have two $10s in my wallet right now.

I had no idea there were still ATMs that gave out 5s. My first checking account was with a bank whose ATMs did that, and I have missed it ever since. Sometimes I just want enough cash to grab a 2479.

Well, to clarify, I didn’t say you could take out just $5. I think the minimum I’ve seen is $20. But including $5s lets you take out multiples of $5 OVER $20, assuming the machine is programmed that way. Some are more limited and give only multiples of $20.

I’m flashing back to my college days when we would tap the ATM $5 at a time to hit the bars. Good times (if broke times).

All these answers make perfect sense and all seem to point to a reality of a system that does not allow $10 bills to circulate.

Perhaps a GD Thread about eliminating the $10 bill is in order.

But then we wouldn’t get to admire Alexander Hamilton’s chiseled features! :eek:

Yep, that’s it. The only time I ever get a ten is when I use a twenty to pay for something that costs less that $10. By contrast, I get a five whenever I use a twenty to pay for something that costs between $10 and $15, or use a $10 to pay for something that costs less than $5, or use a $20 to pay for something that costs less than $10 but the cashier doesn’t have any tens. There are lots of opportunities to get ones. And I get twenties every time I go to the ATM.

Another reason is that bars often give out their change in a way to encourage tipping. If I buy a $4.00 drink and pay with a 20 that I just withdrew from an ATM, I"m likely to get two fives and six ones back.

Thus, those who go to bars often will tend to have 20s, fives, and ones.

Furthermore, if you are making transactions that’re less than $10, then you’ll just spend that sawbuck immediately on the next one you make.

It occurs to me that the relationship between the $20, the $10, and the $5 is the same as the relationship between the $1, the 50 cent, and the quarter, and we’ve already seen that the dollar and the quarter are both used much more than the 50 cent piece.

I think this is a big contributing factor as well. A $10 bill has the disadvantage of being just a multiple of two of the $5, and only half of a $20(which is very common because of the aforementioned ATM). It’s in a similar “sandwiched” position as the 50cent piece, the fifty, or even the $2bill.

Much of the reason for this is the recent rise in prices for small everyday items.

I’m old enough to remember that a 50 cent piece used to be a sensible amount to carry for purchases. Comics were 10, 12, or 15 cents. McDonald’s was 47 cents for 2 hamburgs, fries and a Coke. Paperbacks were 25, 35, or 50 cents. There were hundreds of other examples. Inflation has made those numbers seem ridiculous. I can’t begin to explain how much money $20 used to be. I had an after school part-time job and I didn’t make that much in a week. Before taxes.

Makes me wonder when $50 bills will become the norm and people will wonder why they don’t see twenties any more.

Likewise, the self-checkout stands at the grocery store only seem to give back change in multiples of $5. If I pay for something less than $10 and put a $20 bill in, I’ll get two fives and whatever the rest of the change back.

I can take out just $5 and that’s it from my credit union’s ATMs, which are located in grocery stores and other convenient places. It’s nice.

I’ve got them all.

I was just moving, and I tend to hand out tens as tips to the movers and other relocation-relevant folks*, so I went into a bank and asked for them. The teller said something to the effect that I was the only person who’d ever done so.

  • too much? too little? I hate trying to keep track of tipping trends on things only do 4-5 times per life.

Maybe, but dimes still circulate freely, and it’s in a similar “sandwiched” position as the $10 bill.

This is a big part of what’s happening. It goes a little further than that however. Not only do bartenders and service industry people tend to give tip friendly change, their registers rarely give them any other option. Most cashiers and servers begin their shift with a bank made up of $5s, $1s, quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Combine that with the fact that most ATMs only dispense $20s there’s really no source for $10s anywhere.