May 03, 2018

Question of the Day: How many times does a $1 or $5 bill change hands in a given year?

Answer: About 110 times in a year (or about once every 3 days)

This explains why these lower denomination bills wear out a lot more quickly than $100 bills:


  • How much cash do you regularly carry with you? If so, do you think your $1 and $5 bills are spent within 3 days, as the data suggests? 
  • Based on the average life span (see above) and annual "touches" information for $1 and $5 bills, about how many times do these bills change hands before they are retired? 
  • Why do you think $10 bills have a shorter life span than $1 and $5 bills? 

Click here for the ready-to-go slides for this Question of the Day that you can use in your classroom.

Behind the numbers (Visual Capitalist):

After being printed or minted, each bill is then passed between people and businesses to facilitate transactions. If it’s a $1 or $5 bill, it changes hands on average about 110 times per year – and if it’s a $20 bill, it’s more like 75. The interesting part is that almost every transaction is linked to the one before it, and the series of subsequent transactions for each bill creates a unique, broad story.


While on the subject of currency, do you think that bitcoin currency is a good idea? Let your students do the research to find out what they think. 


About the Authors

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

Danielle Bautista

Danielle is a native of Southern California and a recent graduate from the University of Maine, where she braved the frigid winters—a feat in and of itself—and earned her Bachelor's degree in International Affairs. She has a passion for working with non-profit organizations and serving populations in underprivileged communities. When Danielle isn't writing NGPF blog posts, spearheading various outreach projects, or managing contests and flash surveys, you can find her doing some sort of outdoor activity, learning a new hobby, or cracking what she thinks are witty puns!

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