I currently have a business idea that I’m wondering is legal or not.

I live in the United States if I go to a foreign country and buy USD bills that have been buried and are presumed unfit.

BOA and Chase say in their rules that they take any bill as long as long 50% of the bill is there.Before it’s consider mutilated.

So basically I would fly to a foreign country and buy 100k dollars worth of bills for 90k and return to the US declaring I’m bringing in the money to the country legally. I deposit all 100k and keep the 10k as profit.

  • 3
    It is unlikely that you are the first person to think of this, and it may turn out to be easier to part with 90K than to obtain the supposed 100K worth of dead bills. Jul 18, 2022 at 19:21
  • Do you have any evidence that foreign banks or other sources sell unfit legitimate currency at a discount?
    – user6726
    Jul 18, 2022 at 19:48
  • 4
    Do you know for a fact that in the foreign countries you plan to travel to they presume US dollars to be unfit and bury them? Which countries do this? The whole idea seems very far fetched to me, but I can't imagine it being illegal. Jul 19, 2022 at 2:08
  • 2
    Why wouldn't the bank return the bills to US themselves and get 100%? Why would they have been throwing the bills away until your arrival and losing 100%? Jul 19, 2022 at 8:21
  • 2
    @TigerGuy in principle declaring it is no problem, but there will be a whole lot of paperwork to fill out to prove you're not laundering money, and if they don't believe you they might just take it all. (especially in countries with civil forfeiture, perhaps countries where the police department gets to keep all the money they take)
    – user253751
    Jul 19, 2022 at 19:51

2 Answers 2


It is legal. 18 USC Chapter 17 contains laws regarding what you can/cannot do with US legal tender. It doesn't mention anything about buying, or selling US tender at or above the face value. And there are several businesses in the USA that do this (coin exchanges which purchase coins at less then face value and give you dollar bills in return, etc...).

However I would be concerned that your action might look like money laundering to the customs official on your way back home. Or on the way going to the foreign country for that matter. Which could be very bad for you.

I would talk to a lawyer about this.

  • Thank you for your advice! Jul 19, 2022 at 13:28
  • 1
    "I would talk to a lawyer about this." This 100x over. Just because you can do it legally doesn't mean it's easy or practical to do it legally. If a simple 10% arbitrage scheme simply by traveling to Europe for x days/weeks existed, the market would be saturated by now. It still may be worthwhile, but dot your i's and cross your t's - and maybe most importantly, have verifiable ways to test for counterfeits. Would be rough to spend 90k on 100k of torn up fake money.
    – TCooper
    Jul 22, 2022 at 20:19

Is it legal to buy unfit currency for less then face value
From a comment: I would be buying from private people and not banks

This probably makes you a "Currency dealer or exchanger. " In this scenario, you'll need to follow a bunch of anti-laundering laws:

  • Register as a "Money Services Business"
  • Follow any of the anti-laundering statutes regarding reporting and recording of financial transactions.

I'm unsure if this would be sufficient to render such a business legal. Definitely not a business you should run without consulting a lawyer.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .