When $2 may be your secret ticket to VIP service
Editor's note: This story first ran on Mar. 26, 2018.
What do U-2 spy plane pilots, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and TPG readers have in common? A penchant for the $2 bill.
The Wall Street Journal divulged some fascinating facts about the least common unit of currency in America. The conversation-sparking bill, which features Thomas Jefferson on the front and depicts the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the back, is unusual, yet not rare: the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve last ordered the printing of 179.2 million $2 bills in 2016, according to the WSJ.
From a financial perspective, $2 bills are intrinsically worth exactly what their face value states: two US dollars. Nonetheless, $2 bills command an aura of grandeur far beyond their humble value. Bartenders pay a little more attention to patrons who tip with $2s; strip clubs that dispense $2 bills see significantly higher tips for their staff; and grocery store owners utilize the bills to stand out.
Steve Wozniak enjoyed purchasing sheets of uncut $2 bills, sometimes going so far as to have them perforated and bound into notepads he would then pull out in order to tip waitresses in restaurants. Air Force pilots who have solo-flown the extremely demanding U-2 plane earn membership into an exclusive clubhouse, where the $222 dues must be paid — you guessed it — entirely in $2 bills.
"A very unscientific survey suggests significant overlap between people into points and people into twos," said Michael Phillips, the WSJ author of the article, "perhaps united by the possibility of getting something for nothing — be it a hotel room, an upgrade or a $5 thank-you for a $2 tip."
And the folks over in the TPG Lounge seem to agree, sharing some great stories of their own. Here are a sampling of our favorite uses, stories, and tricks for getting the most bang for your two bucks:
"[Two-dollar bills] are so appreciated, it’s crazy. And the result is that servers and service providers actually feel appreciated. Use them only for tips, it’s the perfect value for so many situations (free breakfast at hotel, free drinks, car rental guy for moving your bags etc.) so you always have some for tipping. The only issue is getting new ones is takes some planning. You need to tell your bank in about Aug or Sept that you want new ones so they can get them transferred form the Fed around Nov. That’s the best time to get them without having to order hundreds of them because they bring in new bills since people want new bills to hand out for holidays. Otherwise you need to order about $1,000 worth because the bank has to order $2,000 worth form the Fed." – Jerrod K.
"If you live west of the Rockies, look for a Washington Federal bank. At the holidays especially, they bind $1 and $2 bills into little booklets of 25 bills with a cover, and sell at face value to customers. It's a great gift, and if you are using for tipping, you should see some of the looks you get when you literally peel the money out of a book, especially the 2s, it's priceless." – Paula H.
"Strip clubs caught on early that if they gave out change in $2 bills their girls would often get better tips." – Vivian D.
"My grandpa used to always give me $2 bills when I was growing up and I thought they were so special - practically unspendable. Not too long ago, I found the BIGGEST pile at my mom’s house from my childhood years. Now I know he was onto something. ❤️" – Bonnie H.
"We were playing trivia at a bar recently and a question came up regarding who is on the $2 bill. My friend had one right there for a tip. Using your smartphone is cheating but using your $2 bill is ?" – Lynn P.
"I carry $2 in my wallet for good luck, #chinesenewyear" – Martini B.
"I always get around $20-$40 in 2s before vacation. Always a conversation starter and you’re remembered by bartenders!" – Chas P.
"One time for work we ran a promotion $2 for 2 minutes your time. My job was to get $10,000 in $2 bills at banks around Milwaukee, put them in an envelope, bring them to Boston and give out 5,000 envelopes with our company's name. I swear there were zero two dollar bills left in MKE. Went to about 40 banks." – Tom B.
"I always carry them when I travel. People tend to remember you better when you tip with a $2 bill." – John D.
"Yeah, it's different than tipping with gold coins. In that case, people usually ask me if I'm from Canada, or look at me like I'm tipping with Chuck E Cheese tokens. I tip with $2s and save the $1 coins for the parking meters or tooth fairy." – Paula H.
"My brother was in a bar one night when a DJ offered $100 to the first person to bring him a $2 bill. My brother always had one in his wallet so he would “never be broke” / good luck charm, but he traded it in for $100. The DJ was a little surprised. A little while later my brother bought back the $2 bill for $10, so he still came out ahead for the night. I may have to start picking up a few of these for work travel / general use." – Corey N.
"I carry one small purse/makeup bag with 20 $2 bills. ... Coffee money? $2. Tips? $2/bag. So useful. For longer trips I order $2 bills at the bank. By the way, I give our mail carrier, refuse collectors and others who warrant it, Christmas bonuses in $2 bills. Just fun. Our garbage collectors tell me they use the money to put in their kids' Christmas stockings; now we feel $2 are mandated. Definitely order them early from your bank." – Catherine M.
"I order $50-100 worth as soon as I arrive in the US (I’m an Aussie). At least once a day when I use them I’ll get a smile or laugh from people saying they’d heard about them but only seen them once or twice, or that family members collect them.
?" – Nicole S.
"I just got a bunch for Lunar New Year! The kids love them. Adults too!" – Ann B.
"Perfect for tips in situations where $1 not enough." – Aaron C.
"I am in South America now and brought a bunch for miscellaneous tips. In Vietnam they’re considered good luck." – Claudia I.
"When Clemson University goes to a bowl game, the fans bring $2 bills with a Tiger paw stamped on them. Shows the economic impact Clemson fans make." – Keith G.
"My fiancé always carries a wallet full of $2 bills for when we travel internationally. We give them to AirBNB hosts as thank you's and servers etc as tips. People are always wowed and so happy about seeing such a rare currency from the USA. Last summer we left a trail of them across the Balkans, most appreciated by a server in a tiny restaurant in Mostar, Bosnia. After giving her the $2 tip on our $10 meal with beers, she was so excited she insisted on another round of beers and a shot on her!" – Michael S.
"My stepdad would always carry one as good luck, and now I always do. But hearing all these good tips, I think I will pick a bunch up to carry for miscellaneous stuff." – Vanessa P.
"I just walked into a bank [and requested some $2 bills]. I needed to pull some cash anyway and I said "do you have any weird money?" lol. I got 40 $2 bills, a few Susan B. Anthony coins, and a few of the golden $1 coins." – Jan T.
"My parents have been giving their grandchildren $2 bills for every holiday since the day they were born. Valentines Day, St Patrick’s, Labor Day, etc. They are 27 and 20 and each probably have $400-$500 in a box." – Cindy T.
Interested in acquiring some Jeffersons for yourself? You can request them from just about any bank in the US. If you want fresh bills, our readers suggest submitting your request well in advance of a special occasion such as Chinese New Year's, when it's customary to gift envelopes of money to friends and family.
If you don't care about the crispness of your attention-grabbing currency, just ask your friendly neighborhood bank teller for some the next time you go in. Chances are, they'll start setting aside $2 bills for you if you're polite about it.
Featured photo by Getty Images.