How to Separate Crisp New Paper Bills

a person handling money
Maureen P Sullivan/Moment Open/Getty Images

Have you ever placed a brand new stack of dollar bills in the cash register only to spend the entire afternoon cursing their sticky little existence? There are a few tricks that you can use to loosen up those bills and avoid the frustration and potential loss.

Why Sticky Bills Are a Problem

Your store's cash register is the heartbeat of your business. It is vital that you do everything you can to protect the money inside it and prevent losses.

We are often concerned with employee theft or mishandling of money, but crisp dollar bills can also be an issue. When cashiers are in a hurry, it is easy to accidentally give a customer back an extra dollar with their change. This can add up if it's not resolved and it can be even worse for your profits when it's a fresh stack of $5 bills. Prevent this loss by training your employees to remain vigilant of stacks with brand new bills and pass on some of these tricks.

The Glass Cleaner Trick

Oddly enough, glass cleaner can work wonders for separating bills and this is probably the easiest and most effective technique. A reader explains how it works:

"When we receive a stack of new bills from the bank, the cashiers find it difficult to separate. To reduce the sticking, just fan out the stack and spray with glass cleaner. We usually keep a bottle under each cash register so it's always handy. The bills curl a bit when wet and become easier to handle." ~ Paula S., Fred's, Inc.

Crease It, Crimp It, Fold It

Newly minted paper money is presented in neat little stacks, often straight off the printing press and your store may be the first place these bills are separated. Take some time to break in the bills before placing them in the register.

  • Fold a stack of bills lengthwise. A simple fold across the length of the stack can break each bill free from its neighbor.
  • Bend a corner. Some cashiers simply bend one of the corners of a new stack to add separation.
  • Crumple individual bills. The other tricks take far less time, but if you want, you can crumple up each bill individually and flatten it back out.

Just Add Air

Some people who use these two techniques think that it works because air is allowed between the tight stack of paper. Others say that the paper's embossing causes bills to stick. The actual reason why any of these tricks work is up for debate, but they're all worth trying.

Ruffle it like copy paper. Have you ever seen someone run their hand over the top of copy paper before putting it into the printer? In theory, this is to keep the paper from sticking together and it may work on paper money as well.

  • Hold one end of the bill stack in one hand and use the fingers of your other hand to ruffle the ends of the bills. It's like you're fanning yourself with money.

Blow on it. You might see bank tellers blow on the end of a stack of bills from time to time. It's often an old habit and it is certainly a good way to spread germs, but it is can also free up the individual bills.

Do the Double-Check Snap 

Many cashiers rely on this last-minute trick to make sure they aren't handing the customer too many bills.

  • Hold your hand like you're going to snap your fingers. Place the bill in question between those two fingers, then snap. If there's a second bill hiding, it should come loose.