The National Post reports that Canada’s new plastic polymer bank notes can’t stand the record heat that North America is experiencing in 2012. A bank teller in Kelowna, B.C. made comments to a radio station last week indicating “she had seen melted polymer bills stuck together during a heat wave.” The Bank of Canada claims that the bills can withstand temperatures as high as 284 degrees fahrenheit.

Carissa Rogers/flickr source

From the National Post:

“The Bank has encountered no evidence that polymer bank notes are being affected by heat as has been suggested in recent news reports,” said Julie Girard, a bank spokeswoman, in an email Thursday.
Ms. Girard noted “no bill is indestructible,” but claimed “Canadian banknotes have been designed to ensure they can withstand the demanding weather.”

The bills are designed to last 2.5 times longer than paper bills, and so far Canada has started issuing only $100 and $50 bills in plastic, making the stakes a bit higher. According to the Post, The Bank of Canada claims that just 197 bills have been come back to them due to wear and tear, compared to the 3,000 cases of damaged paper currency they receive annually.

Still, some people have lost substantial sums of money:

In Cambridge, Mona Billard returned eight plastic bills in January, after her son stashed his $800 Christmas bonus in a tin can and hid it near a baseboard heater. When he retrieved them the next day to make a deposit, the $100 banknotes had shriveled and melted.

Mr. Billard was eventually reimbursed by the bank, but it makes you wonder: if you leave your paper money near the fireplace, would the Bank of Canada reimburse you when it catches flame? How about if you use it to light a cigar? Paper money has never been indestructible, but we’ve learned to keep it away from fire in order to make sure it doesn’t combust. Canadians will have to get used to the new dangers involved with their plastic money, though the Bank of Canada has thoroughly tested the bills’ durability — even creating “a tumbling mechanism filled with coffee grinds, marbles, bolts and synthetic sweat was meant to simulate the effect of being left in a pocket.” (What in the world do Canadians do in the course of an average day?)

Money to Burn

Soon, Canadians might not have to worry about melting, coffee-stained money at all anymore: Canada is the first sovereign nation to roll out its own electronic currency: MintChip. After doing away with its one-cent piece, the Canadian Royal Mint announced its intent to create the MintChip, which would allow for the exchange of goods online without the exchange of any personal data. It would be like cash, just un-meltable.

It’s widely reported, though somewhat hard to believe, that Pablo Escobar used to write down 10 percent of his annual profits from his cocaine empire as a loss, not to bribes and other casualties, but to rats and water damage. Rats would literally eat through hundreds of thousands of dollars he kept in various warehouses. This won’t ever happen again if our currency becomes virtual, which is good news for the Mona Billards of the world, and bad news for the Pablo Escobars.

Then again, how much privacy are you willing to give up to ensure you can’t melt, rip or burn your money? Not to get too geeky, but remember what The Joker did with his share of the money in The Dark Knight? he burned it — all of it. There’s something to be gained from unpredictability and chaos, occasionally, even for non-megalomaniacs. For now, just keep your plastic money away from your radiator.

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  • Deb Thiessen

    Why would I want a cashless society? What happens if the power goes off? No one has access to their money. Duh! Idiots.

    • I agree, but you’d be shocked how many cheerleaders cashlessness has!

    • Brett

      Ah, but what can we buy with paper money while the power is off and the cash registers won’t open? Come to think of it, I still have some extra rolls of toilet paper left over in the basement from Y2K, still the best tradeable commodity for whenever the house of cards ultimately falls down.

  • Lisa Brown

    Actually, I rather like the new bills. Reports that they melt sound like a classic hoax. They actually tried to replicate the claim that the bills will melt in a hot car on the Weather Network and showed that it didn’t work. After all, just because it “feels like” plastic instant money doesn’t mean it will melt. They also fold just fine.