Money Matters:



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 border). You 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 ($1 and $2 bills have been replaced by coins) The notes are coloured and are difficult to counterfeit.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.

Canadian Coins:

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 Rear of Bills
$100 Dollars, Robert Borden Canadian Prime Minister 1911-1920 Exploration & Innovation
$50 Dollars, William Lyon MacKenzie King, PM 1921-1948 Famous Five (legal case where women became "persons")
$20 Dollars, Queen Elizabeth Spirit of Haida Gwaii Carving, located at Vancouver Airport
$10, John A MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister Canadian Veterans & Peace Keeping
$5 Dollars, Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister 1896-1911 Winter Sports
2 Dollar Coin or "Twonie" 1 dollar Coin or Loonie

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.

Identifying Counterfeit bills:

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 counterfeit bills.

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 counterfeiters.  The 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 not visible.

  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.


Place the 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.

Old bills: 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







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