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Currency Counterfeiting - Frequently Asked Questions

Can I reproduce bank notes for advertising or information purposes?

Reproducing bank note images for any reason is protected by the Criminal Code of Canada and the Copyright Act . This federal legislation empowers the Bank to authorize reproductions as appropriate.

Anyone wishing to reproduce bank note images must first obtain the Bank’s written permission. For more information go to or call 1-888-513-8212.

What is legal tender?

A "tender" is an offer of payment of a debt. Payment, of course, may take many forms, with cheques, credit or debit cards, and cash (coins or bank notes) among the most common. If bank notes are being offered as cash, they must have been issued by the Bank of Canada. No other bank notes are "legal tender" in Canada.

There must be mutual consent between the retailer and the consumer as to the particular form of payment in order to conclude a transaction. It is the Bank's understanding of the general law in this area that a tender of bank notes as payment does not necessarily compel the party who is owed money to accept that form of payment. The form of payment which is mutually acceptable to the parties to a transaction appears to us to be essentially a matter of private agreement between those parties. For example, a provider of goods or services could insist on payment by credit card or cheque.

What can I do if a retailer refuses to accept my $100 note? Can retailers legally refuse notes?

The method of payment (e.g. cash, debit or credit card) used in a transaction is a private agreement between the buyer and the seller. Each has the right to accept or refuse a bank note when accepting payment or receiving change.

We encourage retailers to use security features; this is more customer-friendly than refusing notes for counterfeiting concerns and it’s also a more effective protection against counterfeiting losses.

There are several reasons why a retailer may choose to refuse notes (e.g. security for 24-hour operations; maintaining float).

Can I pay for something with coins only? For example, can I pay for a $1 chocolate bar with 100 pennies?

This is actually covered by legislation. The Currency Act sets out limits on a tender of payment in coin:

  • forty dollars if the denomination is two dollars or greater but does not exceed ten dollars;
  • twenty-five dollars if the denomination is one dollar;
  • ten dollars if the denomination is ten cents or greater but less than one dollar;
  • five dollars if the denomination is five cents; and
  • twenty-five cents if the denomination is one cent.

But, as always, agreement between the parties will determine what is acceptable. For instance, stores and banks are often glad to accept coinage beyond these amounts, particularly when it is wrapped and labelled.

What are your chances of getting stuck with a counterfeit?

Your chances are virtually zero if you always check the security features, which is quick and easy to do (touch, tilt, look at, look through).

A counterfeiter’s chance of success depends on how closely Canadians look at their notes. By checking your notes, you protect your money and eliminate opportunities for counterfeiters.

The vast majority of counterfeits are easy to spot when you check the security features, particularly when compared to a genuine note.

How good are the counterfeits?

The quality ranges from poor to good depending on the sophistication of the technology and materials used by the counterfeiter. The key is always the security features.

Most counterfeiters will only do what is minimally required to produce passable counterfeits because they count on people not checking their money. This makes their fakes easy to spot when you focus on the security features and compare a suspect note to a genuine one.

Counterfeiters sometimes try to imitate one security feature to fool people; by checking at least two or more security features, you can recognize even these counterfeits.

Remember that most of the time, the feel of the paper is your first tip-off. You can easily recognize most counterfeits just by the feel on the paper.

Who gets stuck with a counterfeit?

The last person who accepts the counterfeit in a transaction is the person who gets stuck with it.

If you regularly check the security features of your bank notes, you shouldn’t find yourself in this position.

It is illegal to knowingly pass a counterfeit.

Why don’t banks or the Bank of Canada reimburse people who have mistakenly accepted counterfeit notes?

This would subsidize and encourage counterfeiting. The Bank of Canada has said it does not want to provide a financial reward for counterfeiters’ criminal behaviour.

Counterfeiting would be made easier because people would have less incentive to check their bank notes.

What effect does counterfeiting have on the economy?

In addition to the loss of confidence in our bank notes, there are direct costs of accepting a counterfeit: you’re out the value of that note.

There are business expenses related to prevention (e.g. sorting equipment).

There are also costs involved with researching and developing new security features and producing new notes.

There are added costs for law enforcement, prosecuting and incarcerating counterfeiters.

There are also costs related to using alternatives to cash, when bank notes are refused because of counterfeiting concerns.

How are Canadians expected to remember all the security features?

Bank notes have so many security features that we don’t expect you to remember all of them. Just pick two or three that you’re comfortable with to use regularly. You would only need to check more security features if your first checks raise your suspicions.

It’s the same method for checking all notes: touch, tilt, look at, and with the new notes, look through.

The new features are so very obvious and easy to use. They’re intuitive even without formal training.