What is Test Money?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Also known as test bills, test notes, or funny money, test money is non-negotiable currency that is often used in the testing of devices that are used to process actual currency. Typically, the test notes are similar in size and weight to the real money utilized within the country, making it possible to make sure the devices will disburse or accept the real money efficiently. Manufacturers often use test money when evaluating the efficiency of automated teller machines, grocery store kiosks, and similar electronic devices.

For centuries, fake money has been utilized as props in stage productions in lieu of legal tender.
For centuries, fake money has been utilized as props in stage productions in lieu of legal tender.

Another common use of test money has to do with use in theatrical productions. For centuries, fake money has been utilized as props in stage productions, rather than making use of legal tender. With the advent of motion pictures and later television, this type of fake money was routinely used during the course of the production. To clearly identify the funny money from real bills, the stage money was often colored in hues different from the national currency, and sometimes would also be oversized, making it impossible to confuse the fake bills with legal tender.

With a number of automated devices used today to complete financial transactions, the role of test money has taken on added significance. In some instances, the purpose is to make sure the paper bills will sort properly within the device, and dispense accurately based on denomination. At the same time, manufacturers often use the fake bills when testing automated teller machines or similar devices to determine if a reconfiguration or adjustment causes some issue such as ripping or otherwise damaging the bills as they are received or disbursed. Manufacturers will also often damage the fake bills intentionally to determine if the machine will recognize and accept the bills, or reject them during a routine transaction.

While test money will often possess many of the same characteristics of legal tender, there is usually some type of identifying marks that clearly differentiate the fake from the real. This is especially true with test bills used during quality checks on machinery designed to dispense paper money. While the size, general coloring and the markings may also be similar to legal tender so the machine’s internal scanners can accurately read the money as it moved through the system, some additional mark or identification will be included so that it is impossible to confuse the test notes with real bills.

One other fanciful name for test money is Monopoly money. The term relates to the fake bills used in a board game developed in the United States in the early part of the 20th century. Monopoly money is usually bright in color and sized to dimensions that are different from legal currency. This particular type of fake money is often found in games where financial transactions are part of the action, but the term may also apply to any money substitute that is obviously not real money.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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