The vending machine swallowed half of my $5 bill, and the other half remained in my hand. Can I get my $5 back, or is it all lost forever?

  • 12
    I don't know the legal basis for my claim, but I think you are justified in tossing a couple of firm elbows at the machine. At least a good solid wallop on the side.
    – MrChrister
    Jan 15, 2013 at 0:04
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    @MrChrister Did that, but adding insult to injury, my elbows hurt and the machine doesn't care. Or is it injury added to insult?
    – littleadv
    Jan 15, 2013 at 0:05
  • 4
    Mutilated currency Jan 15, 2013 at 0:12
  • 4
    That machine cares. It doesn't show it; but it cares.
    – MrChrister
    Jan 15, 2013 at 0:15
  • 1
    @GeorgeMarian its not mutilated, its just torn. And the problem is that its not really "clearly" more than half that's left on each side.
    – littleadv
    Jan 15, 2013 at 0:16

2 Answers 2


According to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, if you have clearly more than one-half of the current bill remaining, you should be able to take it to your bank and exchange it. But if for some reason your bank will not take it, you can submit it to Bureau of Engraving and Printing Office of Currency Standards.

Question asked on https://www.moneyfactory.gov/resources/faqs.html

I have some currency that was damaged. My bank will not exchange it for undamaged currency. What can I do? The Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Office of Currency Standards processes all requests for reimbursement for damaged United States currency. They decide the redemption value of torn or otherwise unfit currency by measuring the portions of the notes submitted. Generally, they reimburse the full face value if clearly more than one-half of the original note remains. Currency fragments measuring less than one-half are not redeemable. Go to the Damaged Money section of our website for additional information and the procedures to redeem mutilated currency.

However take notice of this:

Any badly soiled, dirty, defaced, disintegrated, limp, torn, worn, out currency note that is CLEARLY MORE than one-half of the original note, and does not require special examination to determine its value. These notes should be exchanged through your local bank.

  • I found that, but it doesn't address a case where its exactly one half.... (Kids, don't put so much pressure when you fold the bills in your pockets in half!)
    – littleadv
    Jan 15, 2013 at 1:45
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    I read this too. If the vending machine operator did it, wouldn't that effectively double the $5?
    – MrChrister
    Jan 15, 2013 at 3:10
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    @GeorgeMarian they want more than half, not at least. Quote: "More than 50% of a note identifiable as United States currency is present".
    – littleadv
    Jan 15, 2013 at 18:20
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    @littleadv I don't understand what is not clear. Do you have enough of the bill to go into a bank and redeem it? Apparently not. (Have you even tried that?) It may qualify as mutilated currency, so try that route. Since you may run into an issue about having exactly 50% of the bill, you should try to get the other half of the bill from the vending company. Jan 15, 2013 at 19:15
  • 1
    This is by far my favourite question on money.se so far. @MrChrister, I really want to know the answer to that question - perhaps we could put Quantitative Easing in the hands of the people?! Jan 15, 2013 at 23:32

There is usually contact information for the owner of the machine printed somewhere on it. Call that number. If it is in a business you could always try the clerk.

Whether you get your money back is up to that person, I suppose.

  • 2
    I was going to suggest sitting by the machine until it's serviced, but this answer is probably the way to go. Jan 15, 2013 at 2:10
  • Contacted the maintenance dept, lets see what happens. The other half of the bill is as useless to whoever got it as my half is to me....
    – littleadv
    Jan 15, 2013 at 2:14

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