How to Replace Damaged or Destroyed U.S. Currency

burned dollarImages Money via Flickr

Storytime: when our littlest rugrat was just shy of her second birthday, she went on a mission of destruction that we’ll never forget. Apparently, she woke up from her nap a tad earlier than usual and, instead of alerting us to this fact, she decided to have a little fun

In a matter of minutes, our angelic toddler drew a Crayola “masterpiece” on the wall of her nursery, managed to take every single piece of clothing out of her drawers and “reorganize” her whole wardrobe all over the floor, and, the worst part, grab all of the cash from out of our wallet and tear it up into teeny, tiny pieces.

We know, we know. We bet some of you are getting ready to type something super snarky into the comments section. Maybe something along the lines of: “Well, why would you ever leave your wallet in your child’s nursery?”

Well, if you had the audacity to type something like that, we’d be willing to bet that you’ve never had the pleasure of raising a 2-year-old. Believe us, the experience makes even the most organized, tidy homebodies do some pretty absent-minded stuff!

Anyways, our little one did a pretty good job of tearing through our cash money, and, unfortunately, she even got her hands on that single Benjamin that we keep in the back of our wallet for emergencies.

Yep, walking into a ransacked nursery is a bad experience, but finding a destroyed hundred-dollar bill in the process is the most painful part.

At that time, we just cut our losses and made a “-$100” note in our financial records under the “childcare” tab. Having said that, we totally wish that we had actually challenged ourselves to do some research on the topic. As it turns out, that bill could have been salvageable!

Believe it or not, there is actually a way to recoup your damaged paper money costs–and it’s really not THAT much of a pain in the neck.

Here’s the scoop…

How to replace your damaged or destroyed U.S. currency

If your cash is just soiled or ripping at the corners, you should still be able to use it, but if one of those bills is torn in half, you will have to tape it together and bring it to your local bank. There, a teller should be able to confirm its authenticity and add the money to your balance, or even replace it with an intact version.

BUT, if your cash has been mutilated due to fire, water, chemical, explosives damage, animal damage, or deterioration by burying–a.k.a. the most common ways cash becomes severely blemished, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing–then it’s time that you contact the agency for help.

On its official government site, the BEP gives the following instructions to those who need their ruined cash replaced:

1. Write down the amount of cash that was damaged, your contact info, and an explanation of how the bills became damaged. Also, be sure to include your bank account number, along with a routing number. If you’d rather receive a check, including payee and mailing address information.

2. Carefully place all of the mutilated cash that you have in the envelope, making sure that the packing process doesn’t further damage the bills.

3. Send as a certified package to:

Personal Delivery and Non-Postal Couriers, i.e. FedEx/UPS

Bureau of Engraving & Printing

MCD/OFM, Room 344A

14th and C Streets SW

Washington, DC 20228

USPS Delivery

Bureau of Engraving & Printing

MCD/OFM, Room 344A

P.O. Box 37048

Washington, DC 20013

4. Wait for your claim to be processed. At this time the BEP is dealing with a high number of currency claims, so it might take anywhere between 6 and 36 months to receive a final decision. Also, if the amount of money that was damaged was particularly high, the BEP may decide to contact law enforcement to help them confirm the authenticity of the claim.

So, there you have it, folks. We sure hope that you never have to deal with this scenario, but if you do, it’s good to know that you could get that damaged cash back!

What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you ever had to get damaged currency replaced? If so, what was your experience like? What’s the best way to keep cash safe?