New $20 bills out in November

Eight hundred million circulating $20’s to be changed

The Bank of Canada will begin issuing the new $20 note in November. The $100 and $50 notes are already out, but it is with the introduction of the $20 that many Canadians will really begin to see polymer notes in their wallets.

Canada’s cash flow is a sea of green. The $20 bill accounts for about half of all bank notes circulating in Canada, so the transition to the polymer $20s won’t happen overnight. With 800 million $20s currently in circulation, the Bank will phase in the new polymer $20 notes on a gradual basis.

The $100 and $50 combine for about 30 per cent of all circulating notes. Issuing these notes first and starting ‘small’ (with notes that are handled less frequently and have less of an impact on the cash system) gives businesses time to adjust and gradually adapt their machines to accept and process polymer notes.

Much work goes on behind the scenes before a new series of bank notes is issued into circulation.

There are roughly half a million cash-handling machines in Canada. As was the case when the current paper notes were introduced, many will need to be upgraded or possibly replaced so that they can accept and dispense polymer notes. The equipment manufacturers and owners have a pivotal role to play so that come issue day, their machines count, accept and dispense the new notes.

Think of all the different types of machines that process cash: ABMs, self-serve kiosks, transit and vending machines, bank note counters, not to mention the high-speed processing machines used in the banking industry.

All that groundwork for equipment adaptations is years in the making—three years to be precise. Since 2009, the Bank has been working with a great number of manufacturers and Canadian financial institutions to facilitate the transition to polymer notes. Because of their role, manufacturers get more than a sneak peek at the new notes. The central bank provides them with early access to information and test notes long before they hit the street.

With the $20 about to begin circulating, and the $10 and $5 still to come by the end of 2013, most manufacturers have already indicated that adaptations or replacement of the equipment they supply to the Canadian market is polymer-compatible.

But it may take some machines a bit more time before they can accept and dispense the new notes. Upgrades are ultimately a business decision that only equipment owners can make. But for the most part, Canada is ready to go.

What all this means is new, more secure, cost-effective and longer-lasting bank notes that Canadians will be able to spend with confidence for years to come. Bring on the green!