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I'm going to Toronto later this year. I have some older Canadian currency on hand that I would like to spend. I understand Canada has recently transitioned to polymer banknotes, so I am wondering how easy it will be to use my old money.

Some of my notes are dated 1979, showing a decidedly youthful Queen:

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And the rest are dated 2004. Her Majesty now appears as an elder stateswoman:

enter image description here

How easy will it be to spend these banknotes? Are they likely to be accepted at ordinary shops, cafes and restaurants? Should I plan to go to a bank to change them, and will they do this for someone without an account? Or is there some other procedure?

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Just FYI, the second bank note is still very common and in circulation. The previous generation of notes still come up every now and then. – ecnepsnai Jan 17 at 8:49
To echo others, you probably won't have any trouble with those notes and definitely no trouble with the second one. However, do keep in mind that you won't be able to spend any pennies anymore. – Celada Jan 17 at 16:37
I would have thought a 1979 $20 note was worth considerably more than $20 as a collectible. – Level River St Jan 17 at 18:56
@steveverrill: According to…, they'd have to be in EF (Extremely Fine) condition or better to have extra value as collectibles. Mine are definitely not. – Nate Eldredge Jan 17 at 19:02
@Willeke: I don't mind you replacing my photos with other images marked "Specimen". However I'd appreciate it if you would include appropriate attributions for the source of the new images, in the text as well as the edit history. – Nate Eldredge Jan 20 at 5:47

The Bank of Canada addresses this in their FAQ on the new polymer notes:

All notes issued by the Bank of Canada since 1935 have legal tender status and retain their full value. If you don't know how to check notes from past series, exchange them for newer ones at your local bank.

You should have no trouble spending them, though if you just want to be sure, any bank will be able to exchange them for a new polymer note for you.

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Thanks. I know they are legal tender, but that does not imply that shops are required to accept them as payment for goods and services (this is a common misconception). Is "You should have no trouble spending them" based on your experience? – Nate Eldredge Jan 17 at 16:09
@NateEldredge Right. And everyone else's experience too. But someone who is very young might not recognize the older note. – Michael Hampton Jan 17 at 17:34
@NateEldredge: legal tender is for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues. Obviously, some businesses can refuse to enter into any contract with you, but a restaurant will have to accept them, since they charge after the meal. – Quora Feans Jan 17 at 17:35

They are accepted everywhere. The new notes are a fairly recent introduction and so we still see a good number of older bills, particularly for smaller denominations.

In fact, the transition to polymer notes is not even fully adopted. Just last month, the parking machine at the hospital had a note on it saying to see the guard on duty to change them to paper notes before using the machine.

What has been phased out are pennies. Amounts are now rounded to the nearest 5c. If you do have a substantial amount of change, some banks have counting machines and will convert them. Electronic transactions though are still calculated to the penny.

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Thanks. It is good to know about the pennies; I do have a couple handfuls of coins, so I will just leave the pennies at home. – Nate Eldredge Jan 20 at 19:26

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