Polymer Banknote Myths: Fact or Fiction?

Date: 8/8/2022
Author(s): Central Bank Of Barbados

Created 08 Aug, 2022
Tags CBB Blog Polymer Banknotes
Categories General Press Release
Views: 2462

In December 2022, Barbados will switch from the cotton-based "paper" banknotes that the Central Bank of Barbados has issued for almost 50 years to notes printed on polymer, a plastic substrate. Polymer banknotes aren't new – Australia, the first country to use them, began issuing them in 1992 – and in recent years more countries and territories have made the switch, including Canada, England, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and Trinidad and Tobago. But there is still some uncertainty about polymer banknotes. So, here are the answers to some polymer myths.

Polymer Banknotes are Indestructible

Polymer banknotes are highly durable. This is because the polymer substrate is non-porous and therefore does not absorb moisture, dirt, and grease, the things that cause paper banknotes to become worn and limp. The substrate also doesn't tear easily, so it would be much harder, for example, for you to accidentally rip up a polymer banknote if you forgot it in an envelope.

But polymer banknotes are not indestructible. Over time, the ink on them fades, and while they are generally hard to tear, it becomes much easier to do so when they already have a hole or small cut in them (think of a piece of cloth). That’s why it's still important to handle your notes properly and to avoid putting staples in them.

Verdict: Myth. They’re strong, but not indestructible.

Polymer Banknotes Stick Together

Just as new paper banknotes tend to stick together, polymer banknotes, especially when they are new, can do the same. It's important, then, for you to be careful when you're spending them to ensure you're only handing over the number of notes you intend to.

Two tips to help keep your notes from sticking together: fan them out and wave them or tap them gently on the counter or table before you start to count.

Verdict: Fact. They can stick together, especially when they’re new, so be careful when you’re counting them.

Polymer Banknotes Melt in the Heat

Polymer banknotes can withstand very high temperatures – in excess of 120 degrees Celsius – so they won't melt just by being in the sun. But you should avoid exposing them to direct heat. That means you should be careful not to leave them in a shirt or pants pocket and then accidentally iron them, as this could warp the note.

Verdict: Myth. But don’t iron them.

Polymer Banknotes Can't be Folded

Polymer banknotes can be folded, so you can put them in your purse and wallet as you would paper bills. You should avoid putting hard creases in your polymer notes however, because while they will spring back from the typical bending they get from being in a billfold, they don't straighten back out as easily after being given those hard folds. This can create problems when the notes are put in ATMs.

Verdict: Myth. But avoid putting hard creases in them.

Polymer Banknotes are Impossible to Counterfeit

Every central bank would love to issue banknotes that are counterfeit-proof, but no such note exists. What we try to do, therefore, is design banknotes with features that are hard to simulate but easy for people to authenticate. Using the polymer substrate allows us to incorporate bold, intuitive security features, most notably see-through areas of the note that are harder for counterfeiters to replicate with the materials at their disposal. Polymer banknotes are harder, but not impossible to counterfeit, so you still have to do your part and check your money.

Verdict: Myth. They make life difficult for counterfeiters, but you still have to check.

Like anything new, the switch to polymer banknotes will take some getting used to, but the more you know about them, the easier the transition will be. So, now that you have a better understanding of what is and isn’t true of polymer, you’re better prepared for when the notes go into circulation in December.

Copyright 2023 by Central Bank of Barbados