I’ve always found foreign currencies interesting. I’m so used to the green USD that when I first saw other money I thought it was strange.

Now I often use foreign currency as a bookmark souvenir of where I’ve been.

Most of the world uses paper and linen for their currency. That’s the texture you feel when you touch a dollar bill or a euro. It feels organic. It feels like paper.

But if you’ve ever been to Australia, the UK, Canada, or Mexico, you’ll notice that their currency feels different. They use plastic polymer for their bills. It’s supposed to last longer, be water-proof, and be harder to counterfeit. There was even news years ago about how Australians can go swimming with money in their pockets.

Here’s my Mexican Peso bookmark:

Notice the see-through butterfly?  The whole note feels slick, almost like wax.

Now, the Philippines is joining Mexico, Australia, and 57 other countries in using plastic bills as their currency.

Why are they changing from cotton-abaca to polymer?

The Philippines has had the idea of using polymer notes for a while now. We know how easily paper bills can break down over time. In a tropical country, paper degrades even faster. This makes the currency more expensive because they have to replace them often.

A more durable currency would help the Philippine government save money since they won’t be printing as much.

Like everything else, COVID also had something to do with it. Paper also attracts a lot of moisture and dirt, making it harder to sanitize. You can damage paper currency if you wash it. With polymer, all you need to do is spray it with alcohol, wipe it with a towel, and you’re done.

They started distributing P1000 bills ($18), and this is what it looks like:


PS. Europe seems to be ahead of the times in a lot of things…but not in money.
They still use coins all the time! It drove me nuts while we were there.  In Switzerland I gave someone cash and as change, they gave me 9CHF (about $9) in coins!

My kids think it’s awesome, so they brought it home.