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U.S. currency – tips on spotting a fake

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According to the U.S. Currency Education Program, “between one-half to two-thirds of the value of all U.S. currency in circulation is outside of the U.S.” With the low value of the Canadian loonie, many Americans will vacation and shop across the border – a fact Canadian businesses embrace by accepting U.S. currency.

But how can you be sure the bill you are accepting is genuine?

Tips on how to tell genuine banknotes from the fake:


  • Federal Reserve paper is actually one-fourth linen and three-fourths cotton, and has red and blue fibers in it.
  • When you move your finger across the surface, you should feel raised printing.


  • $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills have a watermark that can be seen from both sides of the note.
  • They also have a security thread, visible from both sides of the note, that glows under ultra-violet light:


  • $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills have a numeral on the bottom right of the front (portrait side) of the note that contains colour-shifting ink. The numeral will change from copper to green.


  • Serial numbers, a unique combination of 11 numbers and letters, appear twice on the front of the note.
  • A green seal to the right of the portrait represents the Department of the Treasury.

For a complete list of security features on U.S. bank notes, please visit the U.S. Currency Education program.

Note: All suspected counterfeit U.S. bank notes must be turned over to local police.