There are a lot of reasons why you might want to use $2 bills on your next cruise.
Often you’ll want (or be expected to) tip people on the ship, but it might be only a smaller amount that makes sense – for example, if you’ve ordered room service or placed an order at the bar.
But if you carry around $1 bills then that can quickly become quite the stack, and so you may prefer to use $2 bills instead.
Plus, there are other benefits to using $2 bills – you’ll stand out more, and it might even make your server treat you a little better. Not really obviously so, or they’ll get in trouble – but they might just make sure you’re served a little faster next time you need something.
Yet $2 bills are not super-common. Indeed, unless you go out of your way to get them, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive any from a store or when you’re trading currencies.
So, if you want to know where to get 2 dollar bills, and how rare they are, let’s take a look.
How To Get A Stack Of $2 Bills
There is no guaranteed way to get a stack of $2 bills before you arrive in the US. You can request it, but it’s not likely to be possible. The only way to guarantee to get a stack of $2 bills is to go to a large bank in the US and change a larger note or notes.
Obviously, if you already live in the US then this is a lot easier, provided you live close to a major bank. Some smaller banks might not be able to offer a stack of $2 bills but the chances are relatively good.
Outside the US though, it’s a different story. The $2 bill is not common and so it’s not usually one that’s held in major volumes in the typical places where you would exchange your currency.
If you’re ordering currency online, you normally don’t have the option to request specific denominations, and while you could call up a bank or specialist currency exchanger and ask them for a stack of $2 bills, they can’t guarantee that it’s possible.
Normally when you do swap currencies, they make up the total using a mix of whatever notes they have held in their own stock – they don’t order notes in. So the chances of getting $2 bills included is pretty low.
However, anyone from outside the US could still visit a bank if they have time before their cruise, and ask for a stack of $2 bills. This is obviously much easier if you’re staying in a hotel the night before your cruise departs, since you’ll have more time to explore.
Are $2 Bills Still Made?
$2 bills are still printed, although there are fewer made than most other denominations. They are still very much in circulation though, and are legal tender across the US. Some stores may refuse them if they’re unfamiliar, but if they’re used for tipping they will usually be accepted gladly.
There was a period between 1966 and 1976 when the 2 dollar bill was discontinued, but it was then reissued and has been printed ever since (source).
How Rare Is a $2 Bill?
The $2 bill is definitely a less common banknote, but it is not rare enough to have extra value. There are 1.4 billion $2 bills in circulation, accounting for approximately 2.8% of all bank notes.
To put that into context, there are seven banknotes still being produced in the US – $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. There were some other larger notes previously printed including $500, $1000, and even higher, but generally, now you would consider there to be seven different bills.
If there was an equal split across the seven, each would make up 14.3% of the notes in circulation. So the fact that $2 bills only account for 2.8%, according to the latest figures from the Federal Reserve, shows you how uncommon they are.
And when you then scale up to the value of the currency in circulation, things are even more stark – the $2 notes only account for 0.001% of the total $2 trillion in currency that is currently circulating.
And yet, you can’t really describe them as “rare” because there are still 1.4 billion notes officially considered to be available to be used.
However, it’s questionable how many of those are actually being actively circulated, because some people hoard them, thinking that they are valuable because they aren’t as common as other note types.
There are myths surrounding the bill – people think it’s no longer usable, or that it’s gone out of circulation completely.
It’s not helped when the scarcity is reinforced by things like vending machines, which are normally programmed to accept the bill but they won’t include it on the front of the machine where accepted coins and notes are listed.
There are people who are actively campaigning to make it a bigger part of the currently circulating currency. A documentary was even made about the bill.
Can You Get $2 Bills at the Bank?
If you’re in the US, you can get $2 bills at the bank. Depending on the size of the bank, the teller may need to go to the vault to get the bills for you, but if you ask for them then you shouldn’t have your request refused.
You may even get a brand new stack, if you swap a $100 bill (or other bills totaling $100). These are crisp, fresh bills that will be wrapped up and sealed, so you’ll get a series of notes in serial number order that are extremely pristine.
There aren’t really any other places where you can reliably get $2 bills, so a bank is always the best choice.
Outside the US, some banks may hold foreign currency but they don’t tend to offer exchanges. You can try a currency exchanging service but they don’t tend to have stocks of $2 bills.
The Bottom Line
As convenient as $2 bills are for tipping people on a cruise, they’re just as inconvenient to source in the first place – especially if you don’t live in the US.
You can normally find them at the bank, but most people will be too busy preparing for their cruise to go out of their way to get a stack of $2 bills just for tipping.
But they are noticeable, and your waiter or server might just be ever so slightly more favourable to you if you’re tipping in $2 bills instead of $1 bills.
For most people – especially those travelling from the UK – it’s probably easier to take a bundle of $1 bills for smaller tips, and $5/$10 notes for larger tips. And if you’re not used to the tipping culture, it’s worth looking into how much extra you should normally tip cruise ship staff – that way, you won’t be caught off guard when you do sail.
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