I recently went into a Chase bank to break a $100.00 dollar bill to get five twenty dollar bills. The teller ran my one hundred dollar bill through a counterfeit bill checker, and then proceeded to ask me if I had an account. I asked her if I was required to have an account to break a large bill with Chase. She said "Yes". I then asked her why. She said "to keep counterfeit bills from being passed". I asked if my one hundred dollar had come up "good". She said "Yes". I then asked," was there a web site I could go to that showed the amount of counterfeit bills that Chase had received that were received from people without Chase accounts?" She said "No", and that this was a recent Chase policy. I then showed her my Chase checking account and my one hundred dollar bill was exchanged for five twenty dollar bills. Is this policy legal for Chase bank to impose on persons without a business relationship with Chase bank?

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    If I didn't have an account with a bank, why would I expect them to give me the time of day? It's not much different from signs in windows, "No change without purchase," or the "restrooms for customers only." Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 18:51
  • @JoeTaxpayer why is it not an answer?
    – littleadv
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 19:06
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    If you have a chase account - why did you say "no" when she asked you?
    – littleadv
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 19:06
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    @littleadv - because it's snarky, not an authoritative answer. Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 19:27

2 Answers 2


Yes it is (legal). There is of course no law requiring any business you walk in to break your money. What made you think there would be?

Being a bank in the US (and in other countries) has some legal consequences, but none of them relates to 'having to do business with anyone that walks in', neither 'having to break bills for people' (not even for established customers).

Yes, it was historically commonplace for most banks to do all money-breaking for free, but that does not establish any obligation to do it.

Maybe the FED is required to do that, but that won't help you if you don't live near either.

  • My own bank doesn't have to break a bill for me? Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 19:53
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    I am not aware of a law that forces them to do so, @JoeTaxpayer. They want to keep you as a customer, so they probably will. But try to change 1000 $ from pennies to bills (or the other way around), and you will find out.
    – Aganju
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 20:03
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    Converting a large number of coins in either direction is a business service and might have a fee. If my own bank wouldn't break a $100 bill, but forced me to deposit it, and then withdraw 5 20s, I'd get a new bank. On a lighter note, when I asked my bank to get me $2 bills, they said they came in packs totaling 1000 bills. And they'd get it if I took 1/2 the pack. Which I did. Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 20:11

First, they don't have an obligation to provide a service for a non-customer. In theory, the could even refuse this service to account holders if that was their business model, although in practice that would almost surely be too large of a turn-off to be commercially feasible. Non-account holders aren't paying fees or providing capital to the bank, so the bank really has no incentive or obligation to tie up tellers serving them.

Maybe as importantly, they have a legitimate business reason in this case as stated. The fact that the bill passed whatever test the teller did does not, of course, ensure that the bill is real. They may (or may not) subject it to additional tests later that might be more conclusive. Making you have an account helps ensure that, in the event they do test it and it fails, that (a) they know who you are in case the Secret Service wants to find you, and (b) they can recover their losses by debiting your account by the $100. This isn't foolproof since any number of bad things could still happen (identity theft, closing account before they do additional tests, bill passing later tests, etc.), but it does give them some measure of protection.

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