US Currency

In the US, coins are used somewhat less frequently than in the UK. Although there is a $1 coin, it is extremely rare to see. Like in the UK, coins are different sizes, but the size of a coin does not correlate with its value. However, unlike the UK, the size of every note in the US is the same, no matter its value. While in the UK we say quid when referring to pounds, Americans refer to dollars as bucks. Also, each coin has a name that is not simply its value, so it is important to know the lingo!

Credit and debit cards are also more widely accepted in the US than in the UK. Whatever your preference in spending, it's a good idea to become familiar with US currency before you arrive in the US.


There are six coins, although only four of them are regularly used.


A penny is worth $0.01, one cent. It is copper and has a picture of the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, on one side and the Lincoln Memorial (located in Washington, DC) on the other.



A nickel is worth $0.05, five cents, and has a picture of the third president, Thomas Jefferson, on one side and the Jefferson Memorial on the other (also in Washington, DC).



A dime, the smallest in size of the coins, is worth $0.10, ten cents, and has a picture of the 32nd president, Franklin D Roosevelt. On the back is a picture of an olive branch, a torch and an oak branch, all symbols of American peace and prosperity.



A quarter is worth $0.25, twenty-five cents, and has a picture of the first president George Washington on one side and an eagle, the national bird, on the other. There are also state quarters where the eagle is replaced by a US state with a historical figure, artefact or piece of information particular to that state. There are over 50 state quarters, one for each state and also the outlying lands owned by the US. It can be a fun activity while abroad to see if you can collect them all. There are also America the Beautiful Quarters to collect that feature National Parks from each US state. You can buy display books to store them in.



There is a half-dollar (worth $0.50, fifty cents), but it is very rarely used. It features a picture of the 35th president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.



Finally there is a dollar coin, but this is also very rarely used. It features Sacagawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman who acted as an interpreter for the famous American explorers, Lewis and Clark, out West. 



In America, banknotes are called bills.

One dollar bill

The $1 bill has a picture of George Washington on the front, with the presidential seal and a pyramid with its “all seeing eye” on the back.


Five dollar bill

The $5 bill has a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the front and the Lincoln Memorial on the back.


Ten dollar bill

The $10 bill has a picture of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of Treasury, on the front and the US Treasury on the back.


Twenty dollar bill

The $20 bill has a picture of the 7th president, Andrew Jackson, on the front and the White House on the back.


Fifty dollar bill

The $50 bill has a picture of the 18th president, Ulysses S Grant, on the front and the Capitol building on the back.


Hundred dollar bill

Finally, the $100 bill has a picture of Benjamin Franklin, one of America's Founding Fathers, on the front and Independence Hall (in Philadelphia) on the back.