Top 5 US Paper Currency Denominations for January

In my ongoing quest to write stories that other bloggers won’t touch, I thought I’d forgo the usual “Top Credit Cards for the Month” post and try to help out those readers who eschew credit cards and prefer to use cash (losers!!). So here are my Top 5 US Paper Currency Denominations for January:

1) $20 Bill. You may remember the $20 bill from my post last year called “One US Paper Currency Denomination To Rule Them All.” This is my everyday, go-to currency. It’s incredibly flexible – you can purchase literally tens of thousands of items that are priced at less than twenty dollars. That $7.95 ball? I’ll use a $20 bill. That $14 taco platter? Perfect, I’ll use a $20 bill. Even that $19.99 K-Tel 8-Track Collection of the Best Disco Hits of 1977? $20 bill will cover that every time. Even more amazing? If I want to buy a $32 steak at a schmancy restaurant? I can just break out TWO of those twenty dollar bills, and that will work as well.

But here’s a tip you won’t get on the other blogs: At the drugstore I’ll buy a $1.99 pack of mints. Then I hand the clerk a $20 bill. Sometimes they’ll say, “I’m sorry, but at CVS we can’t accept $20 bills for that — you have to use a credit card.” And I’ll say, “just try typing it into the machine.” And it always goes through! (If it doesn’t, just go to a different CVS). But that’s not the best part. I’ll give him (or her) $20, and he’ll hand me $18.01 cash back. That’s right, I get 900% cash back when I use my $20 bill at drug stores. Amazing! Shhhh, don’t publish that anywhere or it’ll blow the whole operation!

2) $10 Bill. The $10 bill isn’t quite as useful as the $20 bill, but it can definitely come in handy. I’ll break it out in a bar sometimes and slap it down like I’m a grizzled gold prospector from 1872 and say, “What can a guy get for a sawbuck?????” It’s perfect when you need a roll of quarters, because you can exchange one of these beauties for 40 of the shiny coins. Also makes a nice birthday present for your 7-year old niece. And no other bill beats it when purchasing a $9.99 bouquet of flowers. 0% cash back on $10 purchase.

3) $100 Bill. The $100 bill just feels good in your hands, which is always a reason to choose how to pay for something. A $100 bill tells the guy at the gas station, “Don’t F- Wit Me, Asshole!” It also tells the guy at the grocery store, “Don’t F- Wit Me, Asshole!” I wouldn’t recommend breaking it out at the convenience store, because they’re not going to accept $100 bills, my friend. No sorry, buddy, no $100 bills. It is, however, perfect when paying a prostitute for services rendered. Or add it to a few of its $100 bill friends and suddenly little Joshua has the best gift ever from his grandpa. Unless his grandpa lost it gambling, which is also a great use of these suckers. $0 annual fee not waived first year.

4) $1 Bill. Did you ever park your car at a valet? Maybe a rental car. Or your own car. Or someone else’s car? Whose car it is isn’t really relevant. You know how when you retrieve your car and the guy pulls up and you feel like you should give him something? Yeah, that’s right – two $1 bills will do the trick. Or did you ever go into a douche-y restaurant and go into the bathroom to do your business and some guy is in there waiting to hand you a towel? Yep, our old friend $1 bill is great for that occasion. Also it’s the correct currency for making it rain at the strip club when you don’t want to blow too much money at once. If you spend $40,000 one-dollar bills in the year, you won’t get any status whatsoever.

5) $5 Bill. I’m never sure what the hell you’re supposed to do with this one. Does anything cost $3.75? No, it doesn’t. It’s too little for a birthday gift and too much to tip the douche-y restaurant bathroom attendant. Abe Lincoln would be saddened to know he’s on this currency.


$50 Bill. Why in God’s name is there even a $50 bill? Go try and buy a soda at a bodega and pay for it with $50 and see what they do to you. They will literally crinkle it up and throw it at you, then kick your ass til you cry. Try and pay your babysitter with it and ask for the $15 change back. C’mon, now! Makes a decent birthday present for a 13-year-old until that 13-year-old tries to go to whatever the hell store a 13-year-old goes to and tries to use it. They will LAUGH IN HIS FACE! Who the hell do you think you are, kid? Now go to the bank and get 2 twenties and a ten and then maybe – MAYBE! – you can come back in here and buy Halo 7. Maybe! Damn $50 bill. Your friends aren’t impressed when you break it out – if you had real money you’d have a $100 bill. It’s saying, “ooh, look at me – I don’t have normal denominations of currency, but I’m not quite rich enough to have that bad-ass $100 bill. I’m just gonna settle for a $50, as if you’re gonna be impressed with that.” I’m over you, $50 bill.

That said, it’s perfect for bribing hotel desk clerks for a suite.

There you go – next week, Top 5 US Coin Denominations for February!



  1. Well done. Your’e the best!

  2. Quick questions. I already have one of the $100 bills. I don’t use it for everyday spend, but just the benefits. Do you think I will be able to get another one? Should I wait 90 days? Is it worth a hard pull? Thanks.

    • Excellent question. Like the Alaska card, you can churn the $20 bill as often as you’d like. There is, however, a $20 fee to get it, first year not waived.

  3. I was just at the ATM (not gonna say which one for obvious reasons) and it literally was handing out nothing but 20 dollar bills.

    • I saw on another blog where they posted a map with arrows and lines about where that ATM is. They’re going to ruin it for everyone.

  4. brilliant. and very funny, but what’s the best credit card to sign up for :wink:

  5. Sad to see the decline of this website into yet another blog shamelessly hyping the products of the Federal Reserve – another sleazy grab for consumer confidence. Why does my $20 bill only get me half the gas it got me 15 years ago? Yeah, I thought so.

  6. I remember back in the early days of the award travel game. I used to have a $2 bill that got me 0.002% of an award ticket on Northwest Airlines.

    Those were the days!

    Thanks for the tips about the $50 bill, I told my parents not to use it for everyday spend. I’ll get them both to sign up for the $20 bill. Thanks OTR!

  7. Some people prefer not to collect US currency points. Whatever. I suppose some people prefer flying coach too.

    Anyways, I noticed there is now a sale on Canadian currency: if you exchange your US for Canadian, you now get a 10% bonus. My advice: even though it was a 50% bonus in the past, you can’t expect that again, so go for it.

  8. Of course you leave out the $2 bill yet again. No blogger ever mentions it – presumably because there isn’t an affiliate link for it.

  9. But will I get an upgrade?

  10. How is award availability using cash? Can you get 2 tickets on the same flight?

  11. To all you haters who whine and criticize Jared for pushing his Treasury notes constantly:

    a) Nobody’s forcing you to read this and b) why don’t you try starting a blog of your own?


  13. This is hilarious!

  14. Nick @ Personal Finance Digest

    Brilliant. I wish I had written this.

  15. Literally I had not seen a $50 in years. I read this post this morning, and my mom handed me a $50 this afternoon. I couldn’t even begin to explain why that was so funny…

  16. $1 note is why the US is so great. You’ll quickly go bankrupt at strip clubs in Europe. Those 1 and 2 euro coins won’t get you close to their bodies. Ever tries slipping a coin between 36Cs? Or down the panties??? Don’t even try throwing coins, big no no.

  17. HAHAHA, awesome post!! “Just try typing it into the machine” – dying!

  18. How could you have skipped all of the 3 dollar bills such as this one ? Much like the miles earned with a Delta AMEX, it appears to have promise, it’s just got to be worth something, it darn sure costs something and then you try to go use it…
    Annual fee not waived, ever.

  19. Dia, The Deal Mommy

    When’s the post about all of these $1 coins I got from the mint?

  20. Too bad Ben Bernanke has been worse than Hilton HHonors in devaluing the currency by printing so many more greenbacks.

    Glad I didn’t follow the other blogger’s advice and start participating in those foreign currency programs. You can only get .00008 cents for your Indonesian Rupiah these days. That’s worse value than a SkyPeso.