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U.S. currency

The U.S. monetary system follows the decimal system. The basic unit is the dollar, made up of 100 cents or pennies. The symbol for a dollar is $ and the symbol for cent is.

Paper money is all the same size and same color (sometimes referred to as “greenbacks.”) It comes in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. The value is written clearly on the four corners of bill.

However, coins generally do not have their values marked, so you would be wise to memorize the names and values of the coins as soon possible. The coins shown below are close to their actual size.


*In addition to the design shown, the quarter also comes in various designs representing each state of Union.
**Coin sizes are approximated.

You may occasionally see either a half-dollar (50-cent piece), which is a large silver coin, or a coin dollar, called a Susan B. Anthony dollar, which looks very similar to a quarter and is rarely produced but may still be found in circulation.


Most students choose to open a banking account in the States for ease of financial transactions. You should not keep more than spending money in your room or on your person! You are free to bank anywhere, but many students choose Park View Federal Credit Union, which is located within walking distance of EMU. The personnel there are available to help you make wise choices about the investment and care of your money.

Banks generally operate as follows: You open an account at the bank of your choosing by giving the bank your money, and providing identification documents. You will probably open a “Savings” account that is an account where your money is stored and you earn a modest amount of interest. You can retrieve your money from that account either by going to the bank personally or by using an ATM card. The bank can also write a “Cashiers Check” or “Money Order” for you if you need to make a payment to a third party from the money in your account.

You might also choose to open a “Checking” account; an account where your money is stored, but you will probably not earn interest on it. You can retrieve money from that account by going to the bank personally, using an ATM card, or writing a check. The check can be written to pay bills; purchase items from the store, make payment to a third party, or get cash for yourself. You write a check in the following manner:

  1. Start by writing in the date using any format, as long as it’s legible. Use either the current date or a future date for a post-dated check.
  2. Write the name of the person or company receiving your check on the line that starts with “Pay to the Order of” or “Payable to.”
  3. Write the numerical dollar amount of the check in the small space that starts with a dollar sign ($) so that it reads like this: $25.63.
  4. Write the same amount using words for whole dollar amounts, a fractional figure for amounts less than a dollar, and a straight line to fill up the remaining space on the line ending with the word “Dollars,” like this: Twenty-five and 63/100 -————— Dollars.
  5. Sign the signature line at the lower right.
  6. Note the check number, date, payee and amount on the check stub or in the check ledger at the front of your checkbook.
  7. Subtract the amount of the check so that you will know how much you have left in your account.

Credit Card Offers

You will likely be inundated with credit card offers, very commonly made by companies in the U.S. to students. BE VERY WARY OF ACCEPTING THESE OFFERS. Virtually every offer will come with extremely high interest rates, and often with other exorbitant fees. Should you decide that you need a credit card (one comes in handy for reservations, car rental, etc.) you will almost surely be able to obtain better rates through application to companies on your own than you would through solicitations.

A credit card should never be obtained simply because you are in need of “quick money.” A credit card is the surest way to fall into even more difficult financial straits. If you do have a credit card, it is always best to use it only for items where cash or check isn’t acceptable (like reservations) and to pay off the entire balance every month. If you do so, you will create a very high credit rating for yourself and you will find it much easier to purchase a car, or obtain other loans in the future.

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