Plastic money: bills that defy crumpling, boiling and counterfeiting

In 2016, Britain will start issuing plastic currency.

Britain will start issuing plastic money in 2016. Canada rolled out plastic $5 and $10 bills last November. Australia has used them since 1988. 

I go to a nearby currency exchange to check them out. A Canadian $5 and Australian $5 set me back $9.24. The bills are decidedly plastic. Smooth. Foreign. 

“They’re a little bit more slippery,” says Russell White, a sales associate at Foreign Currency Express in Los Angeles, “so sometimes you get bills stuck together.” He says that can make them a little harder to count, “but they’re good.”    

White repeats a rumor I’ve seen online, “I’ve heard stories that if the plastic bills, the new Canadian, are in the heat too long, they actually melt. So you can have your money go away in one day if it gets too hot.”

Sounds like a challenge to me. I spread them on my car's dashboard, let them cook in the sun. Two hours later, on an 85-degree day in Los Angeles, the bills are fine.

I wash them. And dry them. I boil them. Freeze them. Crumple them.

They bounce back.

“It actually lasts about 2 and a half times longer than paper,” says Manuel Parreira from the Bank of Canada. He says these polymer bills are also good for stopping fakes; there are plastic windows, a frosted maple leaf with a transparent outline.  “It makes it more difficult to counterfeit but also easy to use,” says Parreira, “and that’s key to insure that people can check for counterfeit.” 

You’re not going to see George Washington on a plastic bill here in the U.S. any time soon. According to the Federal Reserve, the current paper blend is very secure. But, they say they’re always looking at options. Evaluating and revaluating. To stay a step ahead of counterfeiters. 

 

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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