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?

  • 6
    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
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 8:49
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    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
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 16:37
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    I would have thought a 1979 $20 note was worth considerably more than $20 as a collectible. Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 18:56
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    Even if a store refuses to accept such notes, my guess is that you'll have no trouble at all finding "amateur collectors" who'll gladly exchange them for you on the spot, even for a bit more than fair value (even if "EF condition" is required for serious collectors). I'm in Toronto and would very gladly make the exchange : ) If you're going to be downtown Toronto, I'd go to something like arcadestampsandcoins.ca if I were you and see how much I can get for them despite the condition.
    – Eugene O
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 20:50
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    @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. Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 5:47

4 Answers 4


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? Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 16:09
  • @NateEldredge Right. And everyone else's experience too. But someone who is very young might not recognize the older note. Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 17:34
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    @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. Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 17:35

So here's what actually happened.

  • The 2004 notes were accepted without hesitation at a variety of restaurants, shops, etc.

  • The 1979 notes were refused by the first place I tried to spend one, a Starbucks. However, a branch of BMO (Bank of Montreal) was happy to exchange them for new notes, even though I didn't have an account there.

  • When I was a kid in Canada (about 2006) and collected old money, I remember having argued with my mom when she payed entry to an amusement park with a 20$ of the Scenes of Canada (1969) series. It had been removed from circulation about twenty years prior. The young clerk accepted it immediately.
    – Pertinax
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 12:00

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.

  • 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. Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 19:26

I spent about $2000 of notes from the 60s to 90s recently. (2015) I was refused in one place where the waitress had just arrived from East Africa (so fair enough) Everywhere else gladly took them, although every second transaction was a bit like the scene from Star Wars when the rebels try to enter the Imperial battle station (?) and they say to Darth Vader 'it's an old code but a good one' or something like that. One waiter in Toronto bought many notes for himself.

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    It’s an older meme, Sir. But it checks out.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 2:19

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