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For example say I have a $100 bill. If I rip it up into 2 halves, and try to cash in each half at a different bank location, could I gain $100?

  • No. Damaged bills missing a small part would be worth their face value. Missing 1/2 the bill would probably get you 1/2 the face value. YMMV. – ChuckCottrill Jul 8 '14 at 1:25
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    @ChuckCottrill - any substantiation of this? I always thought for damaged bills, it was all or none. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jul 8 '14 at 1:55
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    Can you confirm you are asking about US currency? It will make a difference in the correct answer. – JohnFx Jul 8 '14 at 22:09
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    yes as long as u tape it back together – user28966 May 16 '15 at 0:56
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You did not state which country you were referring to, so I'm going to assume Canada.

Obviously, the standard approach if you accidentally rip a $100 bill in half would be to tape the two halves together. Failing that, though, the Bank of Canada will still accept damaged bills. A torn bill consisting of more than three-fifths of the note is worth full value. A bill is worth half if between 40% and 60% of the bill remains intact. It is worth nothing if less than this remains intact. This information comes from this source and this source (The Great Canadian Trivia Book by Ray and Kearney).

In your example, each half would be worth $50. You would not be able to profit from this approach. Indeed, I know of no country where you could profit from this approach, for obvious reasons.

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    This is not true for the US though... – littleadv Jul 8 '14 at 3:24
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    In your example, some scammer would try to cut exactly at 60% and try to convince one bank that it is over 60%, and another that it is between 40% and 60%. – gnasher729 Jul 8 '14 at 10:59
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    littleadv, indeed, probably not true in many countries. gnasher729, you are assuming Canadians would be so rude. ;) – ChrisInEdmonton Jul 8 '14 at 13:33
  • I presume that Canadian banks, like US banks, will send you to the government if there's any question about which side of those percentages a given fragment falls on. Or let you take the smaller value without challenge. – keshlam Dec 3 '14 at 0:59
  • The German central bank replaces EUR bills if you have more than 50% of the bill [German source]. – Philipp Feb 14 at 16:47
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The US Bureau of Engraving & Printing has a process for submitting a claim for damaged or mutilated currency.

From their FAQ
Q: I have some currency that was damaged. My bank will not exchange it for undamaged currency. What can I do?

A: 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.

  • Many banks use the same standard, since they cycle damaged bills back to the government on a regular basis and under the same rule. Of course if there's any question about whether the piece is "more than half", they'll tell you to contact the OCS directly... so attempting forgery by redeeming the two pieces separately simply doesn't work. – keshlam Dec 3 '14 at 0:06
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    (And there'd be a nonzero chance of losing the whole thing because both pieces are ruled "too small"... probably more likely than both pieces being accepted. Outside of this being fraud, it's a losing bet.) – keshlam Dec 3 '14 at 1:02
  • Well, you wouldn't lose anything if you kept both pieces and taped them back together. – gnasher729 Dec 3 '14 at 11:44
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Of course we still don't know the currency you are talking about, which most certainly would make a difference in the amount you could recover from one-half of a bill, if anything at all.

For the reasons that have already been given, this would most likely not work.

But let's say, that you managed to pull it off. At least for US currency, each half of the bill contains the serial number of the bill. I would imagine that the process would involve recording the serial number of bills that were reimbursed and it would likely be found out (eventually) that the bill was reimbursed twice. This would obviously not be good for you.

In the US, a bank is allowed to replace damaged currency if clearly more than half of the bill remains. If it's not clear that more than half of the bill remains, it would have to be turned in to the US Bureau of Engraving & Printing or the US Treasury, for investigation and possible reimbursement. Both of these agencies have programs for handling reimbursement of damaged currency.

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Something missing from all the existing answers, IMHO, is the reason that the U.S. (and every country as far as I know/guess) requires you to present visibly more than 50% of the bill, in a single piece. If you tear a $100 bill in half and tape it back together, a conscientious bank teller should refuse to accept it. (I have not tested this hypothesis in practice.)

The reason is Sam Loyd's Get Off The Earth puzzle. If you're allowed to exchange a bill that's been torn in two and has a piece missing out of the middle — even a small piece — then you can multiply your money.

Each "bill" in the AFTER picture definitely has more than 60% of a bill present; but the middle two bills aren't in a single piece, so they are no longer legal tender.

  • I assume for this to even have a whiff of a chance of success, it would have to be a lot less obvious that part of it was missing. – Michael Feb 13 at 20:51
  • @Michael: Well, the top and bottom "new bills" are legal tender, even though part of the bill is clearly missing. It's only the two-piecers that are invalid. And notice that you don't have to cut 3 bills in 4ths. You could just as well cut 9 bills in 10ths and make each of the "new bills" 9/10ths of a bill; or 99/100ths. (But can you do it while still making the serial numbers match up? That's a puzzle in its own right!) See also: infinite chocolate from one chocolate bar. – Quuxplusone Feb 13 at 22:14
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    I (or better said my parents) have tested this hypothesis in practice, when 4-year old me used a pair of scissors to fit a dollar bill in my piggy bank. I'm pretty sure there wasn't 50% left in one piece, yet I did get a new bill. – MSalters Feb 14 at 13:02
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    @MSalters: Nice! Yet, with only $1 at stake, I'd wonder if your parents just ate the loss and gave you a new bill; or the bank teller personally ate the loss and gave them a new bill; or the bank itself ate the $1 loss to keep the customer happy. ($1 is cheaper than the average ATM fee, these days, and banks regularly eat foreign ATM fees for "valued customers.") In this kind of situation, it's hard to tell when you're entitled to X, vs. when the other party just doesn't consider the stakes high enough to argue about it, or has ulterior motives such as keeping their kids/customers happy. – Quuxplusone Feb 14 at 16:39
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    The scheme described in this answer would become illegal the moment you try to convince the teller that two pieces from two different bank notes are one bank note. IANAL, but I assume at that point you could get arrested for counterfeiting currency if you get caught. And you might get caught, because in many countries, bank notes have more instances of their serial number than you can see at first glance. – Philipp Feb 14 at 16:51

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