New polymer bills beginning to appear in consumers' wallets

If you have two $20 bills in your pocket, there’s a good chance one looks and feels different from the other.

In November, the Bank of Canada introduced its new polymer $20, and many of the new bills are beginning to make their way into consumers’ wallets.

It comes after the central bank introduced the polymer $100 note in November 2011 and the $50 note in March.

Isabelle Jacques, senior analyst for the Bank of Canada, said it will take some time to completely flood the market with the new $20 notes while removing the old cotton-paper ones from circulation.

“The $20 bill is the most popular denomination in the country, accounting for half of all the bank notes in circulation,” she said. “There are about 800 million of them, which is why people are starting to notice. We will phase out the old notes completely in favour of the new polymer ones, which will take some time.”

New polymer $5 and $10 bills are expected to be released from the Bank of Canada later this year.

The key reason for the change is security – the central bank updates security features on its bills roughly every seven or eight years to stay ahead of counterfeiting – and the polymer notes represent the most secure series of bank notes ever introduced in Canada.

“Working with retailers and places that handle money we’ve been getting a lot of good feedback regarding security,” said Jacques. “These bank notes are just too hard to counterfeit, which is good for these businesses that do handle money.”

The bank offers online tools to educate front-line workers who handle money, offering ways to detect counterfeit notes and how to look for security features. Though durable, there are also tips on how to keep the polymer bills in top-notch condition at, such as keeping them flat and not crumpling or creasing them.

“It’s a different material, it takes some getting used to,” said Jacques, adding that it pays for Canadians to literally and figuratively take care of their money.

Concerns over the notes freezing or melting in extreme conditions have been raised, but the notes have been tested in federal labs to withstand extreme temperatures and the rigours of public use.

The notes also have reduced environmental impact because of their durability, so fewer will need to be manufactured and transported.

The new polymer $20 notes were issued on Nov. 6, just prior to Remembrance Day. It pays tribute to the contributions and sacrifices of Canadian military personnel, particularly those who fought in the First World War, by featuring the Canadian National Vimy Ridge Memorial on the back. Two images of the Queen and Ottawa’s Peace Tower are featured on the front.

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