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What is the currency of America?

The United States of America (or US) is one of the top travel destinations in the world, with all kinds of unforgettable experiences on offer.

Are you looking to find out what the currency in America is, how much money to take, and how much things cost? This guide tells you everything you need to know about the currency of the USA, American money tips and how best to buy US dollars.

What does the USA use for currency?

The official currency of the USA is the US dollar. Its symbol is $ and it has the abbreviation USD.

Like many currency systems across the world like the British pound, American money uses a decimal system, where 100 cents equals one dollar.

The history of the US dollar

The US Dollar has a rich history and was established as the country's official currency in 1792. It has since become one of the most widely used currencies in the world.

When the founding fathers arrived from England in 1620, they quickly ran out of coins. It was common to barter for food and supplies, and people used corn, fish, tobacco and even nails as currency.

The USA later introduced a paper form of money called the Continental, but these became worthless after the War of Independence. In 1785, the Continental Congress met in New York and on 6 July the dollar was established as the official currency in America.

US dollar denominations

Coins

US coins come in various denominations, including:

  • 1 cent (penny)
  • 5 cents (nickel)
  • 10 cents (dime)
  • 25 cents (quarter)
  • 50 cents (half dollar)
  • $1 (silver dollar coin - this is rare and more of a collectors’ item, but still in circulation)

Banknotes

American banknotes come in seven denominations:

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

The designs of these notes feature important American figures, including past presidents like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

Larger denominations, such as $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills, aren’t issued any more, but are still legal tender.

What countries use the US dollar as their currency?

The US dollar is also the official currency of other countries and territories, including Ecuador, El Salvador, East Timor and Zimbabwe.

The US dollar is also often accepted in countries where it’s not an official currency, especially places visited by US tourists. Businesses in Mexico, Canada and various Caribbean islands can be very willing to accept US dollars.

Converting British pounds to American dollars

Now that you know what currency the USA uses, you’ll want to know its value against other currencies. The exchange rates between the US dollar and other currencies like the euro or British pound change often based on market conditions.

As of March 2024, $1 is roughly equivalent to 80p in the UK. So, $10 is worth around £8.00. Of course, this fluctuates with the value of both currencies.

Check out this page for our current US dollar rate.

Can I pay in GBP while in the US?


Sometimes while travelling you may come across a retailer who offers to accept payments in your local currency. However, you should be wary of this, as this means the retailer is using their own exchange rate, and sometimes this can be pretty steep. That’s why it’s best to buy your currency before you go and have a travel money card to hand so you have plenty of options.

Spending money in the US

How much money should I bring to the US?

Determining how much money to bring to America depends on your travel plans and budget. Setting a daily spending limit can help you manage your expenses effectively. If you need additional funds during your trip, you can easily find ATMs and currency exchange services across the country.

At Travelex it’s easy to buy US dollars online, or you can click and collect from one of our UK stores.

How far will by US dollars go?

The cost of living in America can vary greatly depending on the region you visit. Major cities tend to be more expensive, especially for accommodation and dining out. However, America also offers plenty of budget-friendly options, allowing travellers to manage their expenses effectively.

Tipping in the USA is customary, and it's common to leave a tip in restaurants, taxis, and other service-oriented businesses. It could be easier to leave a cash tip, so make sure you pick up your US currency with us before you fly.

As an average daily budget, the below examples may give you an indication of what you’ll need:

  • Budget travellers: $50 - $150 per day.
  • Mid-range travellers: $150 - $300 per day.
  • Luxury travellers: $300 and above per day.

Always try to plan ahead, research specific destinations, and create a budget tailored to your travel plans and preferences. Additionally, having a buffer for unexpected expenses is always a good practice.

Should I bring cash with me?

It’s always a good idea to have at least some currency in cash when you arrive in a country. It means you’re instantly able to buy a drink or snack, take a taxi or give someone a tip. The most affordable way is to order cash in the UK in advance. That way you will get our lowest rates. You can buy online or click and collect at one of our stores.

If you need additional funds during your trip, you can easily find ATMs and currency exchange services across the USA.

Can I use my cards in the US?

Most outlets in America accept payment with both debit and credit cards, including major international brands like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. ATMs are widely available, making it convenient for travellers to withdraw cash if needed.

Travel Money Card for US Dollars

Travel Money Card for US Dollars

Another great option for spending in US dollars is our Travelex Money Card.

  • Safe and secure - the card is not linked to your bank account
  • Choice of 22 currencies, including US dollars
  • Seamless spending with Apple Pay and Google Pay
  • Manage your US dollars effortlessly via the Travelex Money App
  • In case your card is lost, stolen, or damaged, our 24/7 global assistance team is here for you
Learn More

Buy US dollars and get ready to explore!

Now that you know all about the currency of the USA, you can prepare for your exciting trip. Organise your finances and take a look at the convenient Travelex Money Card option to make your travel experience even smoother.

To discover more about the attractions and activities in America, don’t miss our comprehensive USA travel guide. We share inspiration and ideas for your unforgettable journey across this vibrant and iconic country.