June 6, 2016

What the new $20 bill will mean for security and your registers

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This year, Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, announced that Harriet Tubman will be the first woman to have her portrait featured on U.S. currency as the new face of the $20 bill. It’s due to be unveiled in 2020 in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, but that’s just when we’ll get to see the new design – it won’t enter circulation until years later.

Some suggest that by the time the Tubman $20s are released, the use of cash will be on the decline. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s 2012 Annual Report, however, cash in circulation in the United States grew 42 percent between 2007 and 2012, suggesting what cash-accepting retailers already know: cash is still king.

And what of the reigning king of the $20? President Andrew Jackson, the current face of the bill, won’t disappear completely, says Lew. Instead, Jackson’s portrait will be moved to the back of the note. Jackson has occupied the front of the $20 bill since 1928, when he replaced President Grover Cleveland. Since then, the bill has undergone a variety of design changes and increased security measures.

It’s expected that the new $20 bill will feature even more security elements, in the manner of the $100 bill rolled out in 2013. The $100 bill took more than a decade to develop and features a blue 3-D security ribbon with images of Liberty Bells and repetitions of 100 that shift when the bill is tilted on the front, and a holographic bell that changes color when tilted on the back.

“It only takes a few seconds for people — if they know what they’re looking for — to know what they’re looking at is genuine,” said Michael J. Lambert, associate director of the Federal Reserve of the newest $100 bill. Experts expect the same for the Tubman $20.  

Beyond the benefits of increased anti-counterfeit features, the introduction of the new $20 shouldn’t have much effect on your registers. After all, current and previous versions of the $20 bill will continue to be used as long as they’re in good condition. Once a bill no longer meets the strict quality criteria of the Federal Reserve Bank, it is taken out of circulation and destroyed – the average $20 has an estimated lifespan of almost eight years.

There are three versions of the $20 in wide circulation, so it’s not a bad idea for cash-handling employees to undergo training to recognize counterfeit bills. Because the new $20 will likely be more difficult to counterfeit, forgers may revert to copying older versions of the note still in circulation. Since phony versions of these bills are more difficult to spot even to those handling them daily, a refresher course in what to look for may be beneficial for cashiers.

Although we won’t get to hold the Harriet Tubman $20 bill in our hands for at least five years, we can start celebrating now – officially, the first woman and the first African-American to grace U.S. paper currency is on her way. 

 

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Image: iStock