Names and Uses of American Coins

Posted On: October 4, 2018

There are four coins that are mainly circulated in the US. If you are planning to visit the USA or move here as an expat, knowing the names and uses of American coins is helpful.

Play this fun game to understand coins, their denominations, how they look, and more!

What are the common coins in the USA? 
A dime, which is ten cents is a smaller coin than a nickel (5 cents) and a penny (1 cent). A quarter is 25 cents when we talk about money, but 15 minutes when we use the term ‘quarter’ as an idiom to tell time (“It’s a quarter past three.” – 3:15). In addition to these coins, there are also 50 cent coins (known as half-dollars or fifty cent pieces) and dollar coins. Both of these coins are not as common as the penny, nickel, dime and quarter. On a recent trip to the US (April 2015), I noticed that some vending machines that accepted five or ten dollar bills returned dollar coins as change. These dollar coins can be used anywhere to buy stuff, but most stores won’t give them as change.

Many people know that many Americans rely on credit cards. Carrying cash and change is not as common as it used to be. Though this is true, having coins handy for various daily tasks is helpful. Depending on the city you live in in the US, you may need coins – nickels, dimes and quarters – for any of the following tasks.


Learn About US Coins (American Money) 



Listen to the tutorial I have made on how to pronounce the denominations, how to identify the different coins by size, shape and weight and more!! This is a comprehensive overview to coins in the USA!





Laundry Machines (Quarters)
courtesy:Jennifer Kumar



Parking Meters
Use coins or cards
 courtesy:Jennifer Kumar


Newspaper Vending
Newspaper vending machine 

    Food Vending
Food vending
courtesy: Sarah MacDonald ,flickr

Gumball Machines
Gumball and candy machines
courtesy: Dennis Dixon, Flickr


Toll Booth: While some still accept actual
money, some read license plates
Toll booths on highways
Courtesy: Rachel Haller, Flickr

A coin toll booth in Oklahoma… Not sure if it still exists. We were there in 2017.
In addition to the above images, coins are also used for public transport, video games, and pay phones. What other places are coins needed in the US? Share in the comments below. 

Identify Coins Only By Feeling Them! 
While at times, you will have time to sift through the coins, look at them to identify them, there will be other times, you will have to be quick to identify the coin only by feeling it. For instance, when you are approaching a toll booth, you should have the coins ready in advance of pulling up to the window. Or, when getting on most buses, you exact coins. What I suggest is put the coins on the table, just feel them one by one. Now, close your eyes. Feel the coins again. Can you identify them by just feeling them one by one? If yes, then put about twenty or thirty random coins into a small bag or in the coin container of your car, reach in and see if you can identify the coin only by feeling it.

The good thing is that American coins are standard sizes and weights. Once your hand learns the feel of a penny- the penny will always feel the same. Likewise, with the nickel, dime and quarter.


Counting Coins 
How many dimes make 40 cents? What three coins can replace a quarter? How many pennies make a nickel? Watch this video below to learn about counting coins.

Learning about money and finances in the US if you did not grow up there will take time. The games on this page are simple ways to quickly improve your financial literacy in the US.


Jennifer Kumar is the creator of Work and Live in the USA an expat preparation coaching and training program. This program is tailored to Indian expats coming to the US. We can also customize it to other sending countries. In addition to providing general relocation assistance, we have access to regional and city-specific cultural orientations to provide the best preparation before, during and after landing in your new home in the USA.


Thank you – Counting Money Worksheets: – KidsKonnect, March 6, 2019 for referring us!


Related Posts:
Phrases and Idioms about Money in the US
Paycheck Deductions in the USA
8 Tips For Everyday Life in the USA
Learn more about parking in the US


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