2012 Note: 2012 brings big changes
in Canadian currency, both bills & coins. Canada is in the process of
issuing new polymer (plastic) bills. The 50's & 100's have been in
circulation since early 2012, and the 20's will be released in November
2012, with the others to follow. Since it will take a couple of
years for the old bills to go out of circulation, I have left
information on them below. For information on the new bills, please
visit the Bank of Canada
website. I will update the information here, once all the bills are
in circulation. These new bills are almost impossible to counterfeit.
The currency of Canada is the
Canadian Dollar. It's value fluctuates against the American dollar. Sometimes worth less, sometimes at par & sometimes worth more.
Since 2009, it has been within 2 or 3 cents of the US dollar either
higher, lower or at par. Most purchases in BC are subject to
a 12% HST (Harmonized sales tax- that means Goods & Services tax plus Provincial tax).
U.S. currency is widely
accepted anywhere in Canada with no trouble (unfortunately, this
is not the case in reverse, except within a few km of the
are better off changing your money at a bank, and using US
currency only in a pinch. US coins are in common circulation in Canada, although with the
current difference, people simply tend to save them for future trips
below the border. Travelers Cheques are widely accepted and you
can use them in most stores and restaurants as if they were cash,
without paying any commission. This makes them a good choice.
Credit Cards are widely accepted (Visa is the best). There are
also lots of ATM machines around. It is easy to draw Canadian
Currency out with your ATM Card and be debited in US Dollars, or
whatever, back home. Banks are usually open 9AM to 5 PM Monday to
Thursday, although many are closed on Monday's. Some open until 6
PM on Friday and most are open either in the mornings or all day
on Saturdays. You will not find an open bank on a Sunday. You should change any left over Canadian Currency back
to your home currency before leaving the Country, you will
receive a better rate.
An article published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on
detection of counterfeit notes can be found at the bottom of this page.
Canadian Bank notes:
The Canadian Dollar is
available in $5, $10, $20, $50, $100. ($1 and $2
bills have been replaced by coins) The notes are coloured and are difficult to
counterfeit. (I have never understood the reluctance in the US to move towards
different coloured bills. Its so much easier to tell what denomination you are
dealing with, especially in subdued light.) With the advent of very high quality
colour copiers, there are a more counterfeit bills in all denominations
showing up. There is an increase lately in lower denomination bills, so don't
assume that just because it is a $5 or $10, it is automatically genuine.
However, it should be noted that the rate of counterfeit bills in circulation is
less than 1/2 of 1%.
The $20's, $50 & $100 bills that were replaced in 2004 (see pictures of
older bills below)
contain a shiny, raised gold square, which in the past, has made
a photocopy fairly identifiable. Some counterfeit bills,
however, were of such high quality that even a couple of banks
have been fooled. I've been shown a couple of examples and they
are almost undetectable. On the older $20, $50 & $100 bills, still in
circulation, the gold square in the upper left corner has a
smooth texture compared to the rest of the bill and the colour
will change from gold to green when tilted. All bills have little
green dots embedded in them, that you can scrape off with a knife
blade. (Note: This feature has been replaced with the new security threads
in the new $20's, $50's & $100's described below. This will be the case with further new
issues.) The dots will also
glow under ultraviolet light. The fine line work and scrolling
around the face on real bills, are also very crisp. These tend to
appear slightly blurred on counterfeit notes.
Some smaller stores may be reluctant to accept larger
denominations, so ask for $20's at the bank instead, unless you are going to pay
cash for big ticket items. Most ATM machines dispense only $20 bills, although
some do give $10's and $50's.
Note: All Canadians Coins are the same size and
shape as their American counterparts except for the one and two
dollar coins which do not, as yet exist in the US. There are 100
cents to one dollar.
1 cent - This coin is actually used quite a
bit, because with the GST tax, most items you buy do not come out
to a nice even amount . There are a large number of US pennies in
circulation & they can be used as Canadian.
Note: As of May 2012, the penny is no
longer being made. As they disappear from circulation they will be
obsolete and prices rounded to the nearest 5 cents.
5 Cents - The slang for this coin is "Nickel". The term
originates because of the metal the coin is minted from. The same term
is used in the United States.
10 Cents - The slang for this coin is "Dime". This term
originated from the French: décime. The same slang is used in the US.
25 Cents - The slang for this coin is "Quarter". I guess because
it is a quarter dollar. The same slang is used in the US.
50 Cents - You will rarely see a 50 cent piece. They are only
minted for special occasions.
1 Dollar Coin - The dollar bill was replaced by a
coin in 1989. This coin is called a
"Loonie". This is because it contains a picture of that
quintessential North American bird, the Loon. (If you've never
heard one in the wild, you don't know what your missing). Oddly
enough, the coin was originally supposed to have a picture of a
Voyageur (French Canadian fur trapper in a canoe), but the moulds
were stolen, so they changed it. It will be interesting to see if
the slang term "Loonie" carries over to the one dollar
coin in the US when it gets into wide circulation. Nearly all
vending machines now accept Loonies and the two dollar coins as
well. In 2012 the composition & weight of the coin is changing. This
means some vending machines may reject them.
2 Dollar Coin - About 5 years ago the 2 Dollar bill
was also replaced by a coin in 1996. The 2 leading contenders for a slang
term were the "Twonie" or "Doubloon". I
personally preferred the later, it sounded pirate like, but the "Twonie" won
out and that is what it is now called. It is a two piece coin
(See picture below). Early versions would come apart, especially
if you stuck one on a stove burner or put it in the freezer (why
you would do this, I don't know, but some people did). In 2012 the
composition & weight of the coin is changing. This means some vending
machines may reject them.
As I mentioned in the
introduction, American coins can be used in Canada, but you will
not get any exchange on them. Of course if the Canadian dollar happens
to be worth more, you may want to use them. Its best to hold onto them if you
are going to the US. They are in wide circulation, so you will
get them in change on occasion. American coins will also work in
most Vending machines.
Pictured below, are illustrations of Canadian currency. The pictures on the coins
change at times to commemorate certain events, but the general appearance
remains the same. The images below are all © Bank of Canada
- used with permission and are from their web site (see link below). You will notice that they all have the word "Specimen" printed on
the them, so don't even think about trying to use them as templates.
Bank of Canada Web Site
| Front of Bills
Robert Borden Canadian Prime Minister 1911-1920
William Lyon MacKenzie King, PM 1921-1948
(legal case where women became "persons")
Haida Gwaii Carving, located at Vancouver Airport
|$10, John A
MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister
Veterans & Peace Keeping
Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister 1896-1911
|2 Dollar Coin
||1 dollar Coin
The security features of the new $10, $20, $50 & $100
notes are more advanced than those of the new $5 note which was released
a couple of years earlier. I'm not sure if there are plans to re-release updated
$5 notes to reflect these improvements or not. The $1000 bill has been discontinued and any that hit
the bank are removed from circulation.
Some pictures of the old $1, $2,$5, $10 & $100 bills are shown after the
Counterfeit section below.
The new $100 however,
pictured below, which went into circulation in March 2004, is much more secure.
The new $20, introduced in September 2004 & the new $50 in November 2004,
the new $10 in May 2005 are the same.
The Bank of Canada says that stores can't be compelled to accept Canadian
currency under the law. While the Bank of Canada Act gives it the sole right to
print money, the Bank of Canada has no authority over how their notes are used
to settle debts.
Focus on the security features found in the new bills, and your chances of
being passed a forgery are greatly reduced.. Some forgeries pass the ultra-violet (UV) light test used to find
Forgeries don't look completely authentic. The metallic patch in
the upper-left corner, for example, may be gold in a forged bill, while the
patch on the authentic bill changes colour from gold to green when tilted.
As well, the detail in an authentic bill, such as the fine lines in the
eyes of the portrait, may not be duplicated perfectly in a forgery.
Security features (The information below is reprinted from the Bank of Canada Web Site.
The current series of $10, $20, $50 $100 bills have many security features designed to foil
anti-counterfeiting features for the $100 bill described below, also apply to
the new $10, $20 & $50 notes.
Tilt the note, and brightly coloured numerals (100) and maple
leaves will "move" within the shiny, metallic stripe on the front of the
note. Colour's will change through the various shades of the rainbow. There
is a colour-split within each maple leaf. If you look carefully, smaller
numerals (100) appear in the background of the three-dimensional stripe. The
stripe has curved edges.
Hold the note to the light and a small, ghost-like image of the
portrait appears to the left of the large numeral (100). A smaller numeral
(100) is also evident. This watermark is embedded in the paper and can be
seen from both sides of the note. In the absence of light, the watermark is
|| Hold the note to the light and, just like two pieces of a jigsaw
puzzle, the irregular marks on the front and back will form a complete and
perfectly aligned numeral 100. Look for this feature between the watermark
and the large numeral (100
|| Hold the note to the light, and a continuous, solid vertical line
appears. From the back of the note, this security feature resembles a series
of exposed metallic dashes (windows) that shift from gold to green when the
note is tilted. Small characters (CAN 100) are printed on this security
thread, which is woven into the paper
|| Run your fingers over the front of the note. The ink on the large
numeral 100, the Coat of Arms, and the words BANK OF CANADA · BANQUE DU
CANADA feels thicker to the touch
Look for the sharp, well-defined lines that form background
patterns on the note. Also look for micro printing: small, clearly defined
characters within the diagonal lines around the portrait, to the right of
the image of the Parliament Buildings, and inside the large numeral 100.
note under UV light. Look for the following elements, which
are not visible in normal light:
Feel the raised dots near the upper right corner on the front of
the note. Like the $10 note, the new $100 bank note has two symbols, but the
smooth surface between them is much larger. Although not a security
element, the tactile feature offers vision-impaired users an
easy-to-use device to recognize different bank note denominations.
The last series of $10 bills & the current $5 bill, have some new security features as well.
You are very unlikely to encounter any of these. They are
reproduced here as a matter of interest. They are legal tender if any
are out there still.
Tipping is usually 10 to 15% on the total bill before taxes, depending on level of service. It is normal to tip in Restaurants and for Taxis, Hotel Porters, etc. You will find that service in most restaurants is exceptionally good, especially if you are from Europe, however I feel its even better in the US, so Americans may feel it is not as good. Tipping of tour guides is done, but this is not as common a practice as in 3rd world countries. Do not try to bribe Policeman, this is definitely illegal.
Examples of prices for services and goods,
(2012) which may give you some feel for costs:
1) Cup of coffee - $1.50 to $3.00 (except the fancy places like Starbucks). Unlimited refills is the norm in most cafes.
2) Cheap cafe meal - $7 - $10
3) Meal in a good restaurant - $20-$25 (Entree only). This can be as high as $30-$40 in a really fancy restaurant. A decent bottle of house wine is about $15-$20. Most wine menus have wines ranging up to about $30 or $40 a bottle. A Meal in a Family type Restaurant such as White Spot or Denny's will cost $7-$10/person.
4) Chinese Food - About $10 per person.
5) Gas (Petrol)- About $1.25 to $1.45 a litre. (Spring 2012) . Price wars erupt from time to time. $1 a liter translates to about $3.75 US per US gallon
. If you have Microsoft Excel, I have a conversion utility at http://www.natcoa.com/excel/convertor.xls.
6) Newspaper - 85 cents (There are 2 dailies, the "Sun" and the "Province")
7) Parking Meter - About 2 dollar/hour downtown.
8) Pint of Beer in a Pub - About $4 to $6.
9) Bottle of decent wine from a liquor Store - $8 to $20.
10 ) Transit fare - $3.00 to $4.00
11) Taxi - Usually $30 and up depending on distance.
12) Foot passenger ferry fare to Vancouver Island - about $15. A car adds about $35.
13) Decent Hotel Room $75 to $500 a night depending on the Hotel and Location.
14) Local phone call 25 cents, no time limit.
For current exchange rates, click HERE or HERE