Skip to main content

A Bank of Canada employee holds the new $20 bill at the bank in Ottawa Wednesday May 2, 2012.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The most widely used money bill in Canada just got a little bit harder to use.

Several vending machines across the country that usually accept $20-bills don't have the necessary software to take in the new polymer $20-bills. The bills go in, and then, the machines just spit them back out immediately. The problem has affected commuters who use Ticket Vending Machines.

Vanessa Thomas, a spokeswoman for GO Transit, said there are about 25 new machines – called TVMs – that do not accept the polymer bill. The issue was discovered about 10 days ago. The new bill was introduced Nov. 7.

"We tested the TVMs recently and we discovered that some of our machines will need a new software upgrade in order to accept these new bills," Ms. Thomas said.

GO introduced its new machine in May. Prior to that, the machines only accepted coins, credit cards and debit cards. There are still 45 of these older machines, but Ms. Thomas said most commuters now use Presto cards which can be pre-loaded online. Fares are deducted from the cards when users tap them on card readers.

Ms. Thomas said it could take until February to roll out the software upgrade to all new machines, but the company is looking into options to speed up the process. It is not known how much the upgrade will cost.

The Toronto Transit Commission has also received complaints from passengers trying to use the token machines with their new $20-bills. TTC spokesman Brad Ross said the vending machines will sometimes work if the bill is inserted a certain way.

"There has been a high rejection rate," Mr. Ross said.

A spokesperson from the TTC also added that token vending machines have been retrofitted for the new currency, but some are still a little finicky with the polymer bill. Mr. Ross said that signs would be put up this weekend or early next week advising customers on how to insert the bill. In the meantime, the TTC is also working on a fix with their software company.

It is a problem that has been reported elsewhere in the country as well, including Vancouver's TransLink, according to the CBC. But not all businesses have been caught off-guard by the new bills. Jenna Hunter, a spokeswoman for Casino Rama, said staff at the casino were prepared because they knew of the bills' arrival.

"Just like the $100- and $50-bills before it, we were aware that the bills were coming and we ensured that all our software programs were updated and that all of our kiosks were able to handle the bill," Ms. Hunter said. "So, we've had no issues."

The Bank of Canada did not return messages Saturday morning. In a ceremony for the new bill's launch last week, Governor Mark Carney said: "The Bank of Canada has worked with financial institutions and retailers to ease the transition from the old to the new so that businesses that handle cash can readily adapt."

Mr. Carney said the new bill is safer, cheaper, greener and has sophisticated security elements that make it "a world first."

The Bank of Canada is rolling out the polymer bills with enhanced security features to circumvent counterfeiters. New $50 and $100 bills were introduced over the past year, and new $5 and $10 bills are scheduled to debut in 2013.

Interact with The Globe