Tuesday January 25 2022

Posted by BajaInsider on June 24, 2021
  • The new $500 peso note introduced August 27, 2018 will be the first in a new series of more secure currency.
    The new $500 peso note introduced August 27, 2018 will be the first in a new series of more secure currency.
  • Mexican Currency is the Peso
    Mexican Currency is the Peso
  • The 20 and 50 Mexican Peso Notes
    The 20 and 50 Mexican Peso Notes
  • The 100 and 200 Mexican Peso Notes
    The 100 and 200 Mexican Peso Notes
  • The 500 Mexican Peso Notes
    The 500 Mexican Peso Notes
  • The $20 peso coin is easy to mistake for the more common $10 peso coin
    The $20 peso coin is easy to mistake for the more common $10 peso coin



Whether you are visiting Mexico or plan to stay longer, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the six major peso notes currently in circulation. Knowing what is the value of the bill you are pulling from your wallet or purse at a glance can save you from being short-changed or over-paying.

In 2018-2019 the Bank of Mexico will be introducing into circulation of the new family of banknotes, the first of which was the denomination of 500 pesos, and will be available through the banking system as of Tuesday, August 28 of this year. The new banknotes will present improvements in its safety features, functionality, and durability, as well as graphic motifs which will represent the historical identity and the natural heritage of Mexico. 

Click here to read about the new $500 peso note and the new series of Mexican pesos on the way


Baja is thought of as "less sophisticated" than most of mainland Mexico and counterfeiters have found the tourist cities a particularly good place to pass off their work. Dark bars and clubs, strip bars, and houses of ill-repute have become commonplace to be passed funny money, anywhere where the staff is too busy and clients are too focused on having fun to pay attention to the currency they are being passed.

Click here to learn how to identify counterfeit Mexican Pesos

You even need to watch your change at supermarkets and gas stations. Unlike up north, a cashier is responsible for the shortfalls in their cash drawer and shortages are deducted from their pay. Being left holding the bag, by accepting a bad $500 pesos note can zap as much as 50% of a cashier's weekly check. When they discover their error they may often try to pass the bad note on to the next unsuspecting customer.

Quick Currency Conversion:

Currently, the exchange rate around is 20 pesos per US dollar. For rough currency conversion divide the peso total by 20. In other words, a 20 peso note is worth about 1 dollar and a $500 peso note is worth about $25

I have known many travelers to get 'taken' on money handling. 


If you receive a note which you believe to be counterfeit your best bet is to take a heavy sigh and turn it in for a total loss at a bank, be very clear that you believe this note to be counterfeit and that you are not trying to pass it. And of course, hope that it wasn't a $500 or $1000 pesos note.

Feel and count your change and take a glance at each note. It is common knowledge amongst Mexicans that many North Americans don't count their change, and intentional shorting is not uncommon. In part, I believe it is because gringos don't want to look stupid, pawing through their change and doing the math. It is a crime that is easily covered with an innocent blush and an 'Ooopps!" when discovered. Up north we discount coins as 'penny ante' but in Mexico being a few coins short on change can mean dollars worth of shortfall.

Do not accept damaged notes. Bills with parts missing, tape, or even a tear means it is no longer legal tender in Mexico. Damaged notes must be exchanged at a bank.


In transacting in pesos a quick way to think of the value of a note is to move the decimal place one space to the left. This may be a throw-back to my early years in Mexico when the exchange rate hovered around 10:1 for years. In other words, think of $50 pesos as $5 USD and a $500 pesos note worth $50 USD. This quick exchange calculation is no longer exactly true, $50 pesos are currently worth about $2.64 USD and $500 about $26.40USD, but at least 20:1 allows to you identify quickly the value of the note you pull from your wallet.

When you hand a note to a cashier it is a good idea to state aloud the value of the note, to be clear on what you expect for change. So we have included the correct pronunciation for each peso note.

The smallest note in circulation is the $20 pesos note. The face side is Benito Juárez, the first full-blooded native-born Mexican Indian to become president of Mexico. He is often likened to being the Abraham Lincoln of Mexico. On the note, Benito looks rather stiff and presidential. That's OK though, legend has it he wasn't much of a party animal anyway.]


The current $20 peso note

Face: The key motif is the image of Don Benito Juárez García (1806 – 1872), who became president of Mexico in 1858 and issued the reform laws with the support of the radical liberals the following year. Because he defended human freedoms, which served as an example to other Latin American countries, he was proclaimed “Benemérito de las Américas.” In a famous speech, he said: “The people and the government should respect the rights of all. Among individuals, as among nations, respect for others' rights is peace.” The image of Don Benito Juárez is accompanied by a drawing composed of a balancing scale in the foreground, which symbolizes equilibrium and justice, and a book, which represents the reform laws enacted in 1859.

Reverse: The key visual element is a panoramic view of the archeological zone of Monte Albán (built by the Zapotec culture), located in the state of Oaxaca and declared by UNESCO as part of the cultural patrimony of humanity. To the left of this scene is a detail from an earring found in tomb number 7 of the archeological site, and to the lower right is a fragment of a large mask of the God of Rain and Thunder (Cocijo, the main Zopotec god).

The dollar value of the $20 peso note today is about $1.05USD and is enunciated as Veinte (ben-te) pesos.


The current $50 peso note

Face: The$50 peso note has the image of Morelos as the key motif on the front of the new 50-peso banknote and is printed similarly as in the previously issued note (F Type). To the left of the image appears a frame made up of Morelos’ battle flag, two intertwined cannons, a bow, an arrow, and the word "SUD". The latter two elements were used as motifs in the coins minted by the insurgent leader. The cannons are in blue. On top of the frame appears, in diminishing microprinting, the following passage included in the Sentiments of the Nation Morelos image, the texts, the denomination numerals, and the frame are printed in raised ink (intaglio), except for the denomination numeral and the rippled lines in the right lower clear window, which are embossed. The monarch butterflies, which are the distinctive feature of the state of Michoacán, also appear, printed in a color-changing ink that has a rolling-bar effect (Spark technique), in the small clear window in the upper left side, and the clear window in the right side. Another feature of this banknote is the increasing folio numerals.

Reverse: The key visual feature on the back of the banknote is the aqueduct of the city of Morelia, Michoacán, constructed by Bishop Manuel Escalante Columbres in the eighteenth century. Three monarch butterflies appear in front of it. To the left side of the aqueduct is a representation of the pre-Hispanic symbol of the state of Michoacán (Mechuaca, which means "land of fish," taken from the codex telleriano remensis). Monarch butterflies can also be observed, some printed in the main body of the polymer and others in the clear window.

At 18.93:1 today, the note is worth about $2.64USD and is enunciated as Cincuenta (sin-quenta) pesos.


The $100 pesos note has the image of Nezahualcoyotl, who was a pre -Columbian era king. Nezahualcoyotl lived from April 28, 1402 – June 4, 1472, and was a philosopher, warrior, architect, poet, and ruler of the city-state of Texcoco in pre-Columbian Mexico. Old Nezahualcoyotl doesn't look very happy on the note, perhaps it is because he knew Columbus would arrive just 20 years after his death and cause the first New World immigration problem. Maybe it is because he only rated a $100 peso note.


The newest $100 peso note

Face: The historical process of the colonial period is represented with the figure of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the most important poet/writer of Novo Hispanic literature. Her figure is accompanied by a vignette representing a section of the main patio of the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, located in Mexico City's Historic Center, and which was a landmark of educational services during New Spain.

Reverse: The temperate forest ecosystem is represented with the pine, oak, and oyamel trees of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, located in the State of Mexico and the state of Michoacán de Ocampo. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve has been recognized as a natural world heritage site by UNESCO.

The relative value of the $100 peso note is about $5.28USD and is enunciated as Cien (Ce-N) pesos.

With the $200 peso note, it becomes a value to try to counterfeit. I mean, if it takes 1000 hours to successfully counterfeit a note and you go to jail for the same amount of time, would you print sheets of $20 or $1000 pesos notes? If you answered "$20 pesos", you'd better keep your day job.


The $200 peso note features the face of Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz, who was a nun, writer, and scholar that lived in the early colonial period from 1651 to 1695. She was the illegitimate daughter of a Spanish captain and a Criollo woman (of Spanish blood, but born in the New World) Her works are considered part of both the Spanish and Mexican Golden Age of Literature. Her portrait looks very 'nunly' in her habit on the $200 peso note, but an earlier portrait suggests she was quite a babe! She was also a champion of a woman's right to education. She died at age 44 of the plague.

The $200 pesos note is worth about $10.56USD and is enunciated as Doscientos (doz-see-n-tos) pesos. There was also a 200 Year Commemorative $200 peso note issued in 2010. Most of these are now out of circulation, if you get one I suggest you hang on to it for posterity. 


The newest $200 pesos note:

Face The banknote’s obverse is a representation of the beginning of Mexico’s War of Independence, with the image of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest who, on September 16, 1810

, called upon the population through what is popularly known as “El Grito de Dolores” (Cry of Dolores) and started the independence movement; and, the image of José María Morelos y Pavón, who assumed the leadership of the independent movement after the death of Hidalgo and is known as the “Siervo de la Nación” (Servant of the Nation). The images of Hidalgo and Morelos appear along with a vignette representing the “Campana de Dolores” (Bell of Dolores), which was used to call upon the population and start the independence movement in Dolores, Hidalgo.

Reverse: The image of a royal eagle on this side of the banknote represents Mexico’s scrubland and desert ecosystem found at the Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in Sonora, designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Site.


The $500 peso note is the hands-down favorite of counterfeiters, and suitcases full of them have been confiscated here in Baja. The $500 peso note is the largest note that you can pretty much count on to be accepted anywhere. In smaller shops and early in the morning you might even have trouble passing a $500 peso note.

The old series $500 peso note have the face of Ignacio Zaragoza, who was the General hero of the Battle of Puebla, where the Mexican Army defeated the French on the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo) The new note (shown above right) features artist and national treasure Diego Rivera. At first, I thought this a rather unattractive portrait of some unfortunate-looking black lady, but when I went searching for old Diego in Google photos I found it was quite flattering. I guess you have to remember, his main squeeze, uni-browed Frida Kahlo didn't exactly look like Salma Hayek.


The newest $500 pesos note: 

Face: The image, which represents the Liberal Reform and the Restoration of the Republic, is depicted with an image of President Benito Juárez (1806-1972), who issued the Laws of Reform with the support of radical liberals. Because he defended human liberties, an example for other Latin American countries, Benito Juárez was proclaimed “Benemérito de las Américas” (Distinguished Hero of the Americas). The figure of Benito Juárez is accompanied by a representation of his triumphal entrance to Mexico City on July 15, 1867, and symbolizes the victory of the Liberal Reform, the separation of Church and State, and the basic principle of equality before the Law.

Reverse: The image, which represents Mexico’s coastline, sea, and island ecosystems, is depicted with a gray whale and her calf in El Vizcaino Biosphere

The note has a value of about $26USD and is enunciated as Quinientos (kin-yen-toes) pesos. Reserve, Baja California, designated by UNESCO as the natural heritage of mankind.


The $1000 peso note is not the largest in the Mexican monetary system, but the largest of the common use notes. Whenever a $1000 peso note exchanges ownership, enough attention is paid that it makes it hard to pass a bad note. But it is also 100% more profitable than the $500 peso note for the risk-taking counterfeiter, so they are out there.

Face: The historical process of the Mexican Revolution is represented by the figures of President Francisco I. Madero, Hermila Galindo, and Carmen Serdán, driving forces of the revolutionary ideals of democracy, equality, and justice. These figures are accompanied by an image of a locomotive, the revolutionaries’ main means of transportation.

Reverse: The rainforest ecosystem is represented with the jaguar and the ceiba and zapote trees, in the Ancient Mayan City and protected tropical forests of Calakmul, in the state of Campeche. Calakmul has been recognized as a natural and cultural world heritage site by UNESCO.

The note has a value of about $52USD and is enunciated as Mil (mill) pesos.







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