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How to Detect Counterfeit US Money

How to Detect Counterfeit US Money

When you receive money in large denominations, even from the bank, it is a good idea to inspect the bills to make sure that they are not counterfeit. Whether you are using the money for your business, or you simply want to go shopping, you need to know that you aren’t going to be unwittingly passing along counterfeit money. In most cases, cashiers are going to check the bills themselves, but it is better that you know before trying to spend them before you end up having to explain yourself to store security, and the police. Here are some ways that you can detect counterfeit US money.

By Touch

The first thing you should do is feel the bill. The paper used for money is actually made from cotton and linen fibers, and the feel is a lot different than that of regular paper. The printing process is intaglio, meaning that the numbers are slightly raised. You should be able to feel the ink’s texture on the bill. If you run a fingernail along the bill, you should be able to feel ridges in the printing. The paper should feel thinner than regular paper, and it should feel crisper. Whether the bills were printed 50 years ago or last year, they should feel the same.

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By Sight

The next step is to give the bill a close visual examination. Other printers can’t replicate what currency printers can do, so be sure to look for anomalies such as blurring. Look for red and blue fibers embedded in the paper. If they are not there, or they look like they have been printed on the paper, the bill is counterfeit. There should be clear, crisp borders around the bills, and there should be no bleeding in the ink. Be sure to look at the portrait as well. Counterfeit portraits are dull and blurry when compared to real currency. The portrait should stand out and not look like it blends into the background. When using a magnifying glass, you should be able to see “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” printed on each side of the portrait (it looks like a line without a magnifier). Finally, look at the serial numbers. The color should be right, and numbers should be evenly spaced.

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By Security Features

There are a number of security features to look for on currency. All bills except $1 bills have security thread (red plastic strips) running from bottom to top. These should be viewed with a UV light, and the will glow in different colors for different bills ($5 blue, $10 orange, $20 green, $50 yellow, $100 pink). The bill should always read “USA”, followed by the currency amount, which is spelled out on $10 and $20 bills, and written on $5, $50, and $100 bills. With a light source, you should be able to read the inscriptions from the front or back. It is a good idea for small business owners to have counterfeit detector machines which have special lights. Another security feature to look for is the watermark, which bears the image of the person in the portrait on the bill. It is embedded into the paper, and should be visible from both sides of the bill. US currency also has color-shifting ink. If you tilt the bills, you can see the color in the ink change (this is not the case with $5 bills as of yet).

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If you think that you are in possession of counterfeit money, contact the proper authorities immediately. Either take the money directly to a bank to have it inspected, or take it to the police. Handle the bill or bills as little as possible, and write down any information about the bill, such as the date and location you received it. You will also be required to fill out a report through the Secret Service.

Featured photo credit: TBIT via pixabay.com

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Jane Hurst

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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