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Everything about the US Dollar: A guide to the USA currency

by Ana Sofía Teresita | July 24, 2019
one US dollar

What is the currency of USA?

The official currency of the fifty states that make up the United States of America is the US dollar

The symbol of the US dollar

The symbol of the US dollar is a capital letter traversed by a vertical line, which is "$".

US dollar symbol

There are two versions about the origin of this symbol, and both have Spain as a point of origin. On the one hand, it is said to come from the abbreviation Ps, letters that referred to the Spanish pesos or ‘piece of eight’, a currency which was widespread in North America in the 18th century.

According to this version, the symbol of the US dollar would be the spelling of these two letters on top of one another, because the Spanish currency was used as a measure of equivalence.

On the other hand, some documents claim that the figure comes from the Columns of Hercules that symbolise the Strait of Gibraltar. In the past, the image of the US dollar had two parallel lines instead of one. Those two bars on the letter would represent the columns with the band that surrounds them, in which the legend Plus Ultra is read, which means "beyond", the motto of King Carlos I.

United States banknotes and coins

The unit of the US dollar is divided into one hundred cents. There are coins of one, five, ten, twenty-five and fifty cents. They are also known as pennies and are made of copper. The other coins are silver.

Regarding banknotes, there are notes worth one, two, five, ten, twenty, fifty and one hundred dollars. The banknotes bear the portrait of different presidents of the United States, such as George Washington (one dollar) or Benjamin Franklin (one hundred dollars).

Paying with dollars

In the United States the use of the credit card is very common (especially in the cities in the US), although we recommend you carry cash in your pocket to pay for taxis or to buy a hot dog in a street stall if you get hungry. The hundred-dollar bill is not accepted in some stores. For this reason, when you change your currency, try to get tickets of a lower amount.

The safest place to change money is the bank. There are also exchange offices in the main tourist streets and airports. 

The value of one US dollar is less than one euro. The approximate equivalence (we must bear in mind that these values fluctuate frequently) is 1 US dollar = 0.88 euros. That is the reason why many European tourists take advantage of trips to North America to buy branded sneakers and jeans at a price lower than what it would cost them in their country of origin.

Other approximate equivalences of the US dollar are 1 dollar = 107 Japanese yen or 1 dollar = 63 Russian rubles. One litre of milk—one of the most consumed food products in the United States—costs $0.83, while a hamburger in fast food chains costs about $7.The United States is a good destination to return from with suitcases loaded with gifts purchased at a good price.