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I recently saw this tweet by What The F*** Facts: enter image description here

In Canada, if you have half of a $20 bill, it is worth $10.

Is there any truth to this claim?

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    This is surprisingly hard to answer. The Bank of Canada site says they'll reimburse you for mutilated currency, but it says jack-all about how much of the bill you need to get your money. In contrast, the US has a clear policy of "51% = full value, anything less = nothing". – Mark Apr 12 '15 at 7:26
  • FWIW: In Australia, the Reserve Bank will pay out the percentage undamaged, if it is 20-80% undamaged, or the full amount if it is more intact. – Oddthinking Apr 12 '15 at 8:33
  • Backing up Mark's comment: Here is the process and here is the vague reimbursement policy. – Oddthinking Apr 12 '15 at 8:40
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    The picture is wrong though: that's a picture of an American banknote, not a Canadian. – ChrisW Apr 12 '15 at 10:44
  • I'm vaguely recalling the US Federal Reserve System changed the rules on reimbursing for damaged currency several times during the latter half of the 20th century. At one time there were several different, er, "cutoff points", for partial reimbursement. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 25 '18 at 23:46
6

Maybe they meant Quebec? According to a CBC article published in 2015:

Residents in Quebec's Gaspé region are cutting Canadian bills in half to create a new local currency they call the "demi."

No one really knows who started the practice, but $5, $10 and $20 bills, sliced down the middle, have been showing up since the spring.

Residents and some local merchants have been using them, accepting their value as half of the original bill.

"It's money that can only be circulated among these local users," said Patrick DuBois, a demi user from Carleton-sur-Mer, Que.

"No one else will accept it anywhere right now."

[...]

The Bank of Canada says the practice isn't illegal, but also isn't advisable.

"The Bank of Canada feels that writing and markings on bank notes or mutilating them [is] inappropriate as they are a symbol of our country and a source of national pride," Bank of Canada spokeswoman Josianne Ménard said in a written statement.

"Canadians can help keep their bank notes in good condition so they circulate longer."

Martin Zibeau, a demi user from Saint-Siméon, said it's impossible to know how many people are using the quirky local currency, but he personally knows of more than a dozen.

"It's something that's still developing. It's funny --- there are a lot of tourists who have seen it and spread the word across Quebec."

Zibeau says he doesn't see anything wrong with the demi because the bills are still being used as currency.

"In the worst case, if we find ourselves in trouble, we just need to make a call out to collect all the bills with the same serial number to restore the value. We can always put them back together."

Bank of Canada policy says it can refuse to reimburse anyone who wants a replacement bill if "the notes have otherwise been altered or damaged deliberately or in a systematic fashion."

  • Considering that 2015 article mentions that it started in the spring, and the tweet in question is from 2014, it seems like they probably aren't directly related. Another answer also points to a 2009 source (of questionable quality) that says the same thing. This is interesting; but if anything this is more likely an effect of that rule, than the cause of the Tweet. – JMac Apr 26 '18 at 17:22
5

The Bank of Canada Contaminated and Mutilated Bank Notes webpage makes no specific mention of valuation based on degree of mutilation.

Furthermore, there is a document titled Policy on the Reimbursement of Contaminated or Mutilated Canadian Bank Notes which also does not provide any breakdown of how it judges mutilation or value of mutilated bank notes. It does provide this non-specific advice:

In exercising its discretion to reimburse contaminated or mutilated notes, the Bank has an obligation to exercise due diligence in the evaluation of all claims. The Bank seeks to determine the legitimacy of all aspects of a claim, including the identity of the claimant, value of the notes submitted, source of the notes and nature of the damage.

Bank staff will, subject to any health and safety issues noted below, carefully examine notes submitted for reimbursement and assess the value of the claim.

As guidance to claimants, the Bank will not reimburse a claim for mutilated notes where in the Bank’s opinion there is a reasonable doubt, based on research, evidence or common sense, that all or a part of the claim is legitimate. For example, the Bank will not reimburse a claim where in its opinion:

  • the identity of the claimant cannot be substantiated;

  • the notes are counterfeit or there are reasons to believe that the notes were acquired or are connected to money laundering or other criminal acts;

  • there has been an attempt to defraud the Bank or there exists contradictory or improbable explanations about significant aspects of the claim, such as how the notes were damaged or how they came into possession of the claimant;

  • any of the security features of the notes have been removed or altered or where the notes have otherwise been altered or damaged deliberately or in a systematic fashion, including dyed or chemically washed or treated, by a process that could be reasonably expected to have the effect of altering them.

In the absence of any official public policy I would argue that other answers may be speculative in nature.

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The only source on the web that I've found which says so is https://ca.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090418160700AA5Zhfb from 2009 which says,

A genuine note that has become worn or sustained minor damage in circulation can be exchanged for full face value. These notes are classified as unfit notes and may have small pieces missing or small holes (less than 20 per cent of the note missing in both cases), have been torn, have heat damage affecting less than 20 per cent of the note, have adhesive tape on them or have been stapled or defaced. These notes can continue to be offered and accepted in transactions because they are worth full face value. The BOC asks banks, other authorised deposit-taking institutions and cash centre operators, to remove unfit notes from circulation when they are returned to them by their customers.

The BOC adopts the following policy: For determining the value of damaged notes where pieces are missing:

  • If less than 20 per cent is missing: The note is regarded as unfit and full face value is paid, even if the note is otherwise worn.
  • If between 20 per cent and 80 per cent is missing: The note is regarded as incomplete and value is paid in proportion with the percentage remaining, e.g. half face value if half the note is present, even if the note is otherwise worn. The presence or absence of specific features such as the serial number(s) or the clear window is not a factor when determining value.
  • If more than 80 per cent is missing: No value is paid.

That seems to be to be a genuine quote (e.g. IMO the factual reasoning is plausible, and so is the literary style, as is the BOC contact information including a bilingual email address at the bottom of the quote), but I haven't found (using Google) a copy of it from a more official source.

For what it's worth, https://docs.com/ZG5E contains a copy of a document which includes near-identical wording (except "RBA instead of "BOC") that purports to be from the Reserve Bank of Australia.

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    I am dubious about this source. It seems awfully like it was copied from Australia, and is a different approach to the BoC sources I linked to in the comments on the question. – Oddthinking Apr 12 '15 at 11:01
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    Yes, or that Australian policy was copied from the Canadian. That one of the banks copied from the other bank both the policy and the text of the policy is not IMO implausible. The contact details like "mutilated-mutiles@bankofcanada.ca" look correct. Either someone forged the Yahoo answer, replacing "RBA" with "BOC" etc., or they copied an official Canadian document that I haven't found. The latter is more likely IMO. Does it even contradict (is it a different approach than) the "vague policy" which you referenced in a comment? – ChrisW Apr 12 '15 at 12:34
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    @Oddthinking en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_of_Canada says, "It is part of the "Four Nations Group" of central banks, which includes the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Bank of England, and the Bank of Mexico, that collaborate on banknote security research, testing, and development." – ChrisW Apr 12 '15 at 13:43
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    You know that there is no way I'm gonna accept a yahoo answers source, right? – George Chalhoub Apr 12 '15 at 16:02
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    Of note, this breakdown is distinctly different from the one in money.stackexchange.com/a/34019 (referencing the Great Canadian Trivia Book, which itself cites a nameless "manager of operations for the Bank of Canada") – goldPseudo Apr 12 '15 at 17:53

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