Will it vend? We test Australia's new $5 note on pokies and snacks

We grabbed all the dollarydoos we could and went on the hunt for snacks and gamblin' -- all in the name of research.

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
Expertise Space, Futurism, Science and Sci-Tech, Robotics, Tech Culture Credentials
  • Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Claire Reilly
2 min read
Watch this: Our new $5 note has a vending machine problem

Just take my money, dammit!

It's about as high tech as physical money gets, just don't expect to get anywhere with Australia's new $5 note when it comes to buying things from a vending machine.

But don't blame the good folks at the Reserve Bank of Australia. They gave retailers and vending machine companies a whopping seven years to get their act together. And now that notes are passing through hands across Australia, those machines still won't accept the new legal tender.

The new note entered circulation at the start of September, with a fancy-looking clear window, rainbow colour effects and tiny microprint showing the text of the Constitution, all designed to prevent fraud. It even has two tiny braille dots to help the vision-impaired identify the note.

Enlarge Image

The new Australian $5 note.

Dave Cheng/CNET

It's the same size as the old fiver, so you'd think it'd be ridgey-didge in the Coke machine.

But we tested the new $5 note in vending machines across Sydney, we even tried it out in the pokies (Mama needs a new pair of shoes), and got diddly squat. The one place that worked? The Opal Card top-up machine in Town Hall station. Finally, NSW Transport is right on time!

The Reserve Bank estimates there are more than 250,000 vending machines, 200,000 gaming machines and 8,000 self-service checkouts across Australia, so there are plenty of places that mightn't take your new cash.

The RBA says it has been consulting with businesses and machine providers for seven years on its "Next Generation Banknote Project," and even gave sample notes to equipment manufacturers and the retail industry to test out.

"Although the Reserve Bank encourages all businesses to upgrade their machines, it is, ultimately, a business decision," the RBA told us in a statement.

With a cost to upgrade each machine, we can understand why businesses might be slow on the uptake. And with a new $10 note due in 2017, there's no word yet on whether machines will need to keep getting upgraded.

The banking industry seems to be caught up, with the RBA's comprehensive rundown showing that most banking machines like ATMs and banknote scales are ready.

But as it stands now, legal tender that's in circulation across the country won't get you a cold drink or a bet on the pokies. What have we come to?!

It seems that with seven years notice, NSW Transport is still more on the ball than the folks that sell you Coke and chips.

Updated 2:45 p.m. AEDT: Included comment from RBA.