US Currency Exchange Guide

As one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, the United States is full of amazing places to see and things to do. From the bright lights of New York City to the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon, there is an endless array of places to explore. And with a wide variety of climate zones, visitors can find the perfect spot to suit their personal preferences. Whether you’re looking for a sunny beach vacation or a winter wonderland, the United States is sure to have what you’re looking for. With its rich history and diverse culture, you’re about to experience the trip of a lifetime!

General US Currency Information

What is the currency of the United States?

The official currency in the United States of America is the United States dollar (USD).

What do US notes & coins look like?

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Popularly known as the “greenbacks” for their colour, US banknotes feature the following denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.

Federal Reserve notes feature portraits of notable Americans on the obverse (front), including President George Washington ($1), John Trumbull ($2), President Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, President Andrew Jackson, President Ulysses Grant, and Benjamin Franklin, while the back design varies by note. For example, the first $1 Federal Reserve note’s initial design featuring President George Washington and the Great Seal of the United States remained untouched since it was issued in 1963.

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US coins are easy to recognise with their distinctive colouring. The penny is copper coloured, while nickels are silver-coloured. Dimes and quarters are also silver-coloured but with a 100% copper core. Half-dollar, dollar coin and some commemorative coins can be either Copper Coloured or Silver Coloured.

Economy

The United States has the largest economy in the world by GDP at USD $22.3 trillion, with China in 2nd place at USD $19.9 trillion. The United States is also the world’s largest importer and the second-largest exporter of goods after China. The country’s top exports include vehicles, integrated circuits, refined petroleum, crude petroleum, and petroleum gas. The U.S. has a unique economy amalgamating aspects of capitalism and socialism. This highly developed mixed economy relies on the free market for capital distribution while permitting government interference to protect the public good.

Brief currency history

Though subject to English rule, early American colonists utilised currencies from Spain, France, and England. However, the Continental Congress approved the printing of money in 1775 to pay for the impending Revolutionary War. The original plates for this “Continental Currency” were created by Paul Revere. The notes could be exchanged for Spanish milled dollars. As a result of its decline in value, the term “not worth a Continental” came into common usage.

The “Mint Act” of April 2, 1792, passed by Congress after ratifying the U.S. Constitution, established the United States coinage system and the US dollar as the country’s primary currency unit. With the passage of this law, the United States officially became the first nation to use the decimal currency. In 1793, the first American coins were minted at the Philadelphia Mint under the “Coinage Act” and given to Martha Washington.

The government didn’t begin to issue paper money until 1861, although it did release “Treasury notes” on occasion during times of economic hardship, like the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War in 1846, and the Panic of 1857.

A total of almost 1,600 privately owned banks were granted state charters to create and distribute their own paper currency between the years 1793 and 1861. As time passed, 7,000 unique designs of these “state bank notes” were circulated.

The United States government, in need of immediate funds to wage war, authorised the printing and circulation of paper currency by the Treasury Department under the Act of July 17, 1861. Government “demand notes,” or “greenbacks,” were the first paper currency issued by the government. With the retirement of the demand notes in 1862, Congress issued United States dollar notes, often known as legal tender notes.

The National Banks Acts of 1863 and 1864 allowed thousands of banks to once again print their own notes throughout the period from 1863 and 1929. Although they shared the same basic design as the earlier “state bank notes,” the paper used to print these “national bank notes” was authorised by the federal government.

The United States Federal Reserve System was created in 1913 when Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act. The issuance of Federal Reserve Bank Notes by the Federal Reserve Board was made possible by this Act. Federal Reserve notes, the sole currency still created by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, was first issued by Federal Reserve Banks in 1914.

Fast forward to the present day, and the United States dollar remains one of the most popular and stable currencies in circulation. The U.S. Mint continues to produce many different types of coins for collectors, investors, and general circulation.

Taking Travel Money to the United States

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What currency should I take to the United States?

If you’re travelling to the United States, you’ll need to exchange your Australian dollars (AUD) for United States dollars (USD) before you leave. Read our guide on exchanging AUD to USD here. 

Is it cheaper to convert currency in Australia or United States?

Generally speaking, converting currency for travel money in Australia is cheaper than doing it in the United States. You may be able to get a slightly better dollar exchange rate in the United States, but you’ll also be charged commission and other fees, which can add up.

How much money can I take to the United States?

Large sums of money can be brought with you in the form of cash, a money order, or traveller’s checks. No upper limit exists, but any payment over $10,000 USD must be disclosed on Form 6059B and FinCEN 105 upon arrival.

Where to convert currency?

Crown Currency Exchange is the leading foreign currency exchange specialist in Australia. With over 20 years of experience and 80+ minor and major currencies available, we offer better exchange rates than banks with no fees or commissions! Plus, our friendly and knowledgeable staff are always happy to help, so you can be sure you’re getting the best possible deal. Our stores are located in CanberraSydneyBrisbane, The Gold CoastAdelaideTasmaniaMelbourne & Perth.  

Is tipping customary in the United States? How much is expected?

While tipping is not required in most of the United States, it is customary in many occasions. This is especially true at restaurants where table service is available, as many wait staff members rely on tips as a significant portion of their income.

Restaurants: When dining out, it is customary to tip 15-20% of the bill, depending on the level of service. Regardless of the quality of service, a small tip per person is always appreciated.

Taxis: Taxi drivers expect to be tipped 15-20% of the fare, typically a dollar or two. For app cabs such as Lyft and Uber, you can tip at least $2 per ride.

Hotels: Try to leave a $2 or $3 tip per day for housekeeping instead of one hefty tip at checkout. This way, you can be sure that the cleaning staff will receive your appreciation daily.

Cafes and Bars: If you love to get caffeine fixes, leaving a small tip (around 15% of your order) for the barista is customary but greatly appreciated. For bartenders, it is expected to tip $1-$2 per drink so they can continue making those delicious cocktails for you!

Salons and Spas: A 15% tip is the standard for hair and nail salon services. If you had a particularly good experience, feel free to give a 20% tip. The rate is also the same for spa services.

Can you bargain in the United States?

Yes, you can haggle for certain items like cars or houses in the United States. You might also be able to get a good deal on electronics or other items at garage sales or from street vendors in places like Chinatowns or other immigrant communities. It all depends on the item and where you’re buying it from.

What is ATM access like in the United States?

You can find them anywhere, literally. There are more than 470,000 ATMs in the United States, so you will never be too far from one. MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted cards, so it is best to have one of these. But any foreign card will do as well. Just be aware that you may be charged a foreign transaction fee by the ATM operator.

What should you budget per day?

Budget

For low-spender travellers, a budget of USD $70-80 per day should suffice. This will cover the cost of accommodation in a hostel or dormitory, food from budget restaurants or street stalls, local transport and some sightseeing. Cooking your own meals and enjoying free activities like hiking, hanging out at beaches, and walking tours will help to keep costs down. If you’re looking for some alcoholic beverages, we recommend adding an extra $15-20 daily.

Moderate

For a more realistic budget that won’t have you feeling too deprived, we recommend upping your daily budget to USD $200-220. This will cover the cost of a mid-range hotel or Airbnb rental, meals at moderate restaurants, some sightseeing and souvenir shopping. You can also enjoy the odd cocktail or two without exhausting your budget. Paid activities such as bike tours, kayaking, and visits to museums and galleries should also be factored in.

Luxury

No trip is complete without a little luxury, and if you have the budget for it, we say go for it! A daily budget of USD $400 will allow you to stay in the best hotels, eat at the finest restaurants and enjoy VIP experiences. From helicopter rides to tickets to the hottest shows in town, there’s no limit to what you can do. Just remember to factor in the cost of shopping for designer labels!

Currency details

Currency:

United States dollar

Currency code:

USD

Currency symbol:

$

Central bank:

Federal Reserve

Nickname:

buck, greenback

Currency sub-unit:

Centavo = 1/100

Bank notes:

$1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100

Coins:

1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1

Must-do's while you are in the United States

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1. Marvel at the Grand Canyon

Carved over millions of years by the Colorado River, the canyon is nearly 1 mile deep and up to 18 miles wide. Its size is truly breathtaking, and its colourful rock formations are a sight to behold. Even if you are not a nature lover, the Grand Canyon is well worth a visit. No matter how many photographs you have seen, nothing can prepare you for the experience of standing on the edge of this vast chasm. If you are looking for an adventure, you can also hike or raft through the canyon. 

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2. Take a walk through the Freedom Trail in Boston

The trail is a 2.5-mile walking route that takes visitors to 16 different historic sites, including the iconic Bunker Hill Monument and the site of the Boston Massacre. The trail is also a great way to learn about the city’s rich history; along the way, you’ll hear stories about the American Revolution, the civil rights movement, and more. Best of all, the Freedom Trail is free to walk, making it an affordable activity for all budgets. So whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, be sure to add the Freedom Trail to your itinerary when you’re in Boston.

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3. Take a helicopter ride over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

If you find yourself in Hawaii, one experience you won’t want to miss is a helicopter ride over the active volcanoes of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There’s nothing quite like getting up close and personal with these amazing natural wonders. From your vantage point in the helicopter, you’ll be able to see the lava flows as they make their way down the mountainside and into the sea. You’ll also get to see the vast expanse of the park from above, including its dense jungle and sprawling black sand beaches. And, of course, no trip to HawaiiVolcanoes National Park would be complete without seeing the famous Halema’uma’u Crater. With its steaming vents and bubbling lava, it’s truly a sight to behold. 

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4. Experience New York Broadway Show

Seeing a Broadway show is a quintessential New York City experience. No trip to the city is complete without catching at least one performance. So why not make the most of your visit by experiencing one of the best things that NYC has to offer? The bright lights, the talented performers, and the electric atmosphere all come together to create an unforgettable experience. And while there are great theatre productions to be found across the United States, there is nothing quite like a Broadway show. If you have the opportunity to see one while you are in the country, you should absolutely take advantage of it. 

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5. Experience the Las Vegas strip

The Las Vegas strip is one of the most iconic stretches of roadway in the United States. Home to some of the country’s most famous casinos and hotels, the strip is a must-see for any visitors to the area. But the strip isn’t just about gambling and glitzy shows – it’s also a great place to enjoy a meal, go shopping, or simply take in the sights. With its bright lights and colourful attractions, the strip is a uniquely American experience that should not be missed. So whether you’re looking to hit the slots or just take in the sights, be sure to add the Las Vegas strip to your travel itinerary.

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