Penny Forward Transcript: What Bill is This?

today, we are going to be following up on our episode regarding accessible currency, with an episode entitled, “What Bill Is This?” We recorded this live on Zoom and Clubhouse.


Click here to listen to the audio podcast and see the show notes…



Chris: When I think about accessible currency, I think a lot about how much less stress I would have if I could simply feel which bills I was being handed back.


Chris: This is the Penny Forward podcast, a show about blind people building bright futures, one penny at a time. I’m Chris Peterson, …


Liz: I’m Liz Bottner, …


MOe: And I’m MOe Carpenter.


Chris: And today, we are going to be following up on our episode regarding accessible currency, with an episode entitled, “What Bill Is This?” MOe is moderating our zoom room, and Liz is moderating our clubhouse room, and I’m tying them all together from the main studio here in Richfield Minnesota. And let’s start out with our regular hosts, by talking about how each one of us individually manages our cash money. I’m going to go last, and I’m going to turn it over to MOe, to see how she handles things first. MOe?


MOe: Well, I’ll be honest, I don’t do a whole lot of cash, at least anymore. I do a lot of my money management through our credit card that we have for both me and my husband. And a lot of times, I am with him, so I don’t pay for things, but I do have a signature guide that I use, that he 3 D printed me for signing receipts, so that was very helpful when we were traveling away from each other this last month, and so I did use that. But when I do have cash, I tend to keep twenties on me for the most part, and I will fold my other bills. So I usually fold like, a 10-dollar bill the long way in half, and then my five-dollar bills, I usually fold in thirds, and I leave, twenties, can kind of vary. A lot of times, I fold them in half because then I have ones just flat out. Because if I have ones, I’m gonna have a few of them, because that’s my garage sale money. Um, … (Chuckle.) But that’s kind of how I keep them situated.


Chris: And does anything ever go wrong with that system for you?


MOe: Uh, it’s a lot of fun when you get money handed back to you, because a lot of times, you’re in a rush to get your change thrown into your wallet, and so stuff doesn’t always get folded like it should. And so that’s where I would love to have accessible currency. Because I can’t always trust that I’m told the exact order, and it used to be that people gave you change back with the biggest bill on the bottom, and your lowest bill on top, and then it was told to them that that was bad, because then people knew that the low bill was on the bottoms and then people started reversing that order, and so you just never knew what order money was actually getting handed back to you in. So, I don’t like to pay for things in cash because of that issue.


Chris: And I know that you have a little bit of vision. Does that ever help you with managing your cash when you do use cash?


MOe: So, I do use the little bit of vision I have. It has to be in the right situation, but your fives and above do have the bigger denominations on the back side, in the lower, um, I think it’s the lower right hand corner, and I can read those in the right situations, but that doesn’t usually help me in a store, because that’s not usually very good lighting, but I have used ones and twos, because I did have a family member that liked to give twos away, and those I cannot tell the difference at all between. So, you could get a dollar, or you could get two dollars, or if I needed like three dollars, I thought I was leaving a three-dollar tip, it might be a six-dollar tip. So, that’s kind of the downside to those bills.


Chris: One last question for you. Have you ever knowingly been cheated? Like somebody’s given you back a one and told you it was a twenty or anything like that?


MOe: I can’t say for sure that I can remember any time that this has happened to me, but I know that I have heard of it happening to other people.


Chris: Okay. Thanks, MOe. Liz, Let’s turn it over to you, and uh, kind of the same questions. How do you deal with your cash, first of all?


Liz: I definitely try to fold it, and put it in my wallet in different denominations. Before I do that, though, if I’m not in a position to have someone help me figure out which is which, in terms of the cashier or something, a lot of times, I won’t do that, and I will wait until I’m in a private area, and then I will use things like the money identifier, and identify money that way, and then I will fold it and put it in my wallet. Although, a lot of times, I say I will fold it and organize it and all of that, and then I forget, and I’m out and need to use it, and then, it becomes a little bit more frustrating, ’cause then I’ll, “Wait. I should have done this.” And I scold myself. But I definitely try as much as I can to fold it. I fold each bill that’s the same denomination into others of that same denomination. So I might have several tens, and several twenties. I also try not to carry that much cash with me, just to minimize the need to have to sort through a lot of it. I use cash when it maybe is a, lower denomination purchase and it doesn’t make sense to me to use a card, but I do as much as I can to minimize all frustrations, try to use non cash purchasing, for that reason.


Chris: You covered this already a little bit, but I want to make sure that I, I ask it explicitly anyway. When you have been using cash, has anything gone wrong, that you know about, with your systems?


Liz: No. Um, not that I have experienced, and I have not, to my knowledge, been cheated out of any denominations of money, although I have heard many, many stories, and I know people who have told me that that has happened to them, and they just will not use cash for that reason. Which is horrific, I think, because that’s a level of independence that they now don’t think they can have, because of that poor experience, through no fault of their own.


Chris: Okay. Well thank you, Liz. I want to talk about my own experiences, and while I’m doing that, I want to encourage the people in our zoom room, and also in our clubhouse room, to raise your hands if you would like to share your experiences as well. Talking about my own personal experience, I’m a lot like MOe and Liz, in that I don’t use cash nearly as much as I used to. It is very convenient to use either a debit card or a credit card for a lot of transactions, and, and so that’s what I do much of the time. However, that convenience also comes with a trade off. In that it is very easy for me to spend impulsively, and it is quite a bit easier than it used to be for me to overdraw on my checking account than I used to. So it’s something that I need to be careful with. And there are some things that I do where cash is just not a very good option. For example, I love collecting records. So I go to flea markets where people sell records, and many of the venders there don’t accept cash. And I could buy records all day. I could probably drain my entire checking account buying records. Especially if I could pay for them all with a card. Because it would be very difficult for me to keep track of how much I’ve spent. So, when I go to record shows, or similar events like that, where I kind of know that I’m gonna be put in a position where I could spend a lot of money, I will intentionally get cash. Sometimes it’s, you know, maybe fifty or a hundred dollars, depending on how long the event is, and how much I want to take out of my budget for that particular event. And I’ll get that in cash, and uh, keep it in my wallet, and then spend the cash, and when I’m out of cash, that means I just can’t buy any more. And uh, it works pretty well as, as far as a budgeting mechanism that allows me to enjoy my hobbies without breaking the bank or, or putting my family’s finances at risk. I fold my twenties the long way in half, and then also, the short way in half. So they’re essentially folded into quarters. And they fit very nicely into one of the pockets in my wallet. My wallet has one large bill pocket, and then in one side of the, the folding wallet, there are three smaller pockets that are about the size of a credit card. They also hold bills fairly nicely, and, and folding a twenty in that way fits very nicely in, in one of those pockets. You usually get twenties out of cash machines, so I usually start with twenties at the beginning of a day like this. When I start to get money back is when things start to go wrong, or start to get disorganized. Tens, I fold in half, and then half again, the short way, so kind of, I think the way that people would traditionally think that people fold their money. Fives I just fold in half the short way, so they kind of uh, fit into a, a pocket in my wallet, and the end hangs over the side, over the outside of the pocket, and uh, can be folded over so my wallet can close. And then ones never get folded at all, because at least way back in the day, you used to use those in vending machines, and folding money and then trying to feed them through the dollar slot in a vending machine wasn’t always a, a good fit. So I always tried to keep them flat. So they fit into the very large pocket in my wallet. On very rare occasions, and it’s only been very rare occasions, I’ve gotten things like fifties, or hundreds, and those are difficult for me because I don’t have a, a pre-defined system for folding or organizing them. Now what happens at record shows is a lot like what MOe and Liz have already talked about. I get in a rush. I maybe will pay somebody a twenty for a stack of records, and they might give me fifteen dollars back, let’s say. And so I’ll have a ten, and a five, and five ones, and uh, if I have time, I may fold and organize those in my wallet, but much of the time, I may at least try to make sure that they’re organized so that the ten is on the bottom, the five is the next bill up, and then, and the five ones are above those, and then I fold that whole stack in half and shove it in my pocket for the next vender that I’m, I’m stopping at. And if I manage to keep all that organized, I might be able to use that fifteen bucks at the next vender, and, and start to peal away at it until I’ve spent it, and then, and then I may go to the next twenty after that. Usually, I am walking around with a sighted guide when I’m doing this, so, I have somebody that I trust to help me make sure that I’m, I’m doing what I need to do, and that I’m not accidentally handing people the wrong bills. So I, I haven’t knowingly been cheated or, or, or uh, handed back the wrong bills at that particular time. However, when I was in high school, uh, this kind of thing happened to me several times, and it really shook my confidence about handling money. I remember I was on the wrestling team in high school, and we were supposed to sell candy bars to fund raise for the wrestling team. And so, on the bus, on the way home, I was trying to sell people candy bars, and I didn’t know which kinds of candy bars were which, so I was trusting the sighted people on the bus to pick out the right candy bars, and uh, they were picking out more candy bars than they were paying for in some cases, or they were paying less than the candy bars that, that were worth, and my parents noticed this when I got home. I was really proud of myself for having sold a bunch of candy bars, and then they looked at how much money I had and, and, said “Oh, this isn’t … this isn’t right.” And there weren’t electronic money identifiers or, or good ways for me to, to figure this out at that time, and unfortunately, there weren’t also any kids on the bus that had scruples that were willing to call this out. So yeah. I’ve had this happen to me. Not so much as an adult, but as a teenager, and as a kid. And, like MOe and Liz, I’ve heard about it happening as an adult. So, it’s definitely a concern that we have. I don’t feel like we have a good handle on how big a concern it is, or not, but not everybody is trustworthy. Even people that are working in stores, or, or uh, you know, working as venders in flea markets. They’re not all trustworthy people, and uh, at some point, this could happen, and even if it doesn’t happen, it’s something that adds an extra level of stress in our lives that we shouldn’t have to worry about. And so when I think about accessible currency, I think a lot about how much less stress I would have if I could simply feel which bills I was being handed back, especially when I’m getting change, and uh, and keep better track of them myself without having to rely on a sighted person, or an app, or something that, that runs slowly, that uh, maybe isn’t something that I’m going to use all the time because it, it just takes up too much of my time.


MOe: I was thinking, while you were talking, and where I haven’t had that issue with paper bills so much because like I said, I just … I have people around. I have gotten the wrong change back, not because our change isn’t identifiable, but because other countries use similar sizing, so I’ve gotten lots of foreign currency back in my change that I can’t identify that it’s a foreign currency.


Chris: Really! Now that’s interesting. I’ve not heard of that happening a lot before, although I have heard of people getting Canadian quarters back.


MOe: A lot of pasos, you can get that way. (Laugh.)


Liz: Wow!


Chris: Now, I wonder if that’s a geographical thing, ’cause that’s not ever happened to me, but I could see where it could happen and would be difficult.


MOe: Well and a … a lot of times you won’t even know it until you take the change into the banks. So, you could also pass it off as, you know, the wrong coin. But when you take it to a bank to get it counted, the bank machines will not accept it.


Chris: Wow! Wow.


Liz: Right.


Chris: Interesting.


Liz: Yeah.


Chris: Now that we’ve talked through all that, I hope that some of you have chosen to raise your hands in Zoom or Clubhouse.

uh, let’s start with Clubhouse, shall we? Liz, has anyone spoken up there and requested to speak?


Liz: Yes, we do have Nolin.


Nolin: Thank you for having me. I, uh, honestly want to see more accessible currency, especially with the Inote application getting more updated, because the developer of that app is possibly getting a little bit behind on that, especially when IOS 16 came out.


Chris: Okay. If cash was accessible to you in another way, would that be a big deal for you, if you didn’t have to use the Inote app even to figure that stuff out?


Nolin: If it had braille on it, that would help, yes. And also, one more thing I wanted to add if you don’t mind, yes, I do keep my ones not folded, however, my parents help me fold them in stacks to help keep them nice and neat, and help me put them into my wallet. But I’m starting to use a credit/debit card now, where I’ve got to make sure I keep track of how much I spent, so I have to be in charge of contacting whoever’s in charge to make sure that they put it in their records.


Chris: Okay, well thanks, Nolin. We appreciate your input. We are told that accessible currency may be coming in as little as three years, or at least some accessible currency. So, we hope that’s true. There’s many people that are having a little trouble believing it, because of some of the way that this issue has been treated in the past, but we’re definitely looking forward to it, and we believe that this is a very important thing, a very important issue, that should give us a lot of independence with managing our money. So thanks for being here tonight. Uh, who do we have next?


Liz: Rick.


Rick: Thank you. I use um, both Seeing AI and Supersense for money recognition, product recognition, all of those things. My strategy with that, and it seems to work every time, is to put the bill against the back of my phone, and pull it away until it reads. If it does not read, I turn the bill around, put it back up against my phone again, and pull it away until it reads. And it will do it every time.


Liz: I will second that. Also, lighting can play a part as well.


Rick: It does.


Liz: You don’t want it to be too dark, you don’t want  it to be too light, it’s kind of like Goldy Locks.


Rick: I have found that it doesn’t really matter how fast you move it either. When it sees it, recognizes it, (finger snap.) It speaks it. So, you know, and I’m on a, I’m on an iPhone 12. So, um, nothing special in terms of equipment.


Chris: And Rick, what else do you use besides that? cause I’m assuming you don’t use apps all the time.


Rick: Um, no, I’ve got a, probably similar folding strategies to the things that have been mentioned. I will say one thing that I’ve noticed, and this was quite by accident, but, if you just take your finger nail and scratch the bill, if you practice that on all the different denominations, you’ll notice that the higher the bill, the more fine the grain. So a hundred has very little texture to it, whereas a one tends to have more texture.


Chris: What are your feelings about accessible currency?


Rick: I can’t read braille, I want to read braille, but depending on the nature of the identification process, my concern, just as a business person, and as an older person, I really have a hard time thinking that you’re going to convince the mint to go to the expense of printing accessible money. It may happen, I don’t know, I just don’t see it happening. That’s just totally an opinion, for what it’s worth.


Chris: It’s a fair opinion, and it’s certainly a, something that others have expressed too.


Rick: I don’t know what ideas have been discussed to differentiate the different bills.


MOe: I don’t know what the  different tactile markers are going to be, but as I understand it, it’s tactile markers, not necessarily braille.


Rick: Maybe one line, two line, three line, four lines depending on the bills?


MOe: Right. And I think it might even be like an outline of the number, like you would have raised print letters on certain things, I would imagine it’s something like that, that’s kind of imprinted. But I don’t know. I, I wasn’t one of the people that got to touch the accessible currency, so, …


(MOe and Rick laugh.)


Rick: They didn’t ask your input on this I take it.


MOe: Right.

(Rick laughs.)


MOe: Right. But they are talking to ACB, and they have five people in ACB that they,  did get to feel the new tactile bills.


Rick: Well, I’m certain, you know, there’s a lot of great minds out there. I’m recently blind, every day I learn something new, and I’m, I’m really finding that the talent in this field is incredible. Just listening to Chris and Liz on the podcast. That, that was one of the first things that I found when I became blind. The level of commitment the people in this … field, if you will, have toward helping people is, is just incredible.


Liz: Thank you.


Chris: Yeah. Thank you very much. Really appreciate you being here, Rick. Who do we have next?


Liz: Uh, we have Kathryn.


Kathryn: So, I guess I’m the weirdo of the pack, because, (Chuckle.) I actually have two different things I use. I have a pouch for like all my cards, and, a makeup thing, I don’t know how you’d stick makeup in this thing, but anyway, it has four different slots, and I put my money in there, and then when I get money, if I use cash, which I haven’t really used since I’ve been employed ’cause I find that it’s just easier to be like, “Here’s my card.” But if I have cash and I don’t know what it is, I will wait till I’m somewhere less public, if you will, and use Seeing AI, or something of that nature. I try not to use the vision that I do have because I find that using my non visual techniques, I get things done a lot faster.


Chris: Do you ever have anything go wrong, Kathryn?


Kathryn: Well, yes, because I did have a ten in the wrong spot. It goes ones, fives, tens and twenties. And on one side of the outside, there’s like a … a logo emblem. So if I feel that, I know that the first slot is your ones. So somehow, I had one … I think it was like a ten, in the wrong spot.


Chris: Well, we’re getting close to being out of time here, but I want to make sure that everybody gets, uh, a chance to share any final thoughts. So, here’s where this could either be chaos, or it could be really fun. Um, let’s just open it up to everybody that’s unmuted and see what people have to say.


Kerry: This is Kerry. You know, I like Kathryn’s idea of the pouch with the different pockets, but if you don’t have that, um, what I’ve done in the past when I’ve had to deal with multiple bills, is I’ve just used zip lock sandwich bags and paper clips. (Laugh.) It’s cheap, and it works. So, it, it’s not a good permanent solution, but as a temporary fix, definitely, that’s my tips. Sandwich bags and paper clips.



Chris: And it has the advantage of being waterproof.


Kerry: And your bills don’t get mixed up if they’re in little sandwich bags.


Chris: True. I heard Jo.


Jo: I just wanted to say, especially to Chris, don’t feel bad because you got short changed. I still have some vision, and I’ve been short changed just without paying attention to the bills, and, you know, they told me, “Well, you gave me a ten.” No, I gave you a twenty. And I knew I gave them a twenty, but I’ve been short changed too, so it, it’s not just because of the, of the vision loss.


Chris: Thank you, Joe, I appreciate that. This happened about thirty years ago now, so I’m, I’m well past it, but it is definitely something that at the time was very traumatizing, and I really do think that blind kids especially, maybe miss out on some experiences that are important to have, like working a job in a retail store. Or at a fast food restaurant or something, and, and some of that is perception that we can’t do those jobs. And I don’t even want to say that we can’t do those jobs, because some of us have. But it certainly is something that I, I think is rare among blind youth, and it puts us behind the curve when we’re going to apply for more professional jobs later on, and just behind the curve with, with regard to experience, with regard to working and stuff. And even, even selling. You know, back in, back in my day, when I was really young, you know, we used to have lemonade stands and things like that. And, and most of our money that exchanged hands at that time was, was coins. And coins are nice in a sense because if you’re not getting foreign currency like MOe, then, uh, coins are, are pretty easily identifiable by touch, and so it was pretty easy for me to run a lemonade stand, or, or sell things at my parents’ garage sale, or whatever. But, uh, I worry now that, with inflation, even very cheap things are still, you know, worth dollars instead of cents. And uh, so, coins are, are not as useful as they used to be. And maybe something like a lemonade stand, without accessible currency, might be more difficult for a blind kid to run. And I see that as being a problem.


Liz: Absolutely. I also think that in addition to not having the experiences that other piers may have, in terms of, as was mentioned, jobs and retail or running lemonade stands, whatever it might be, there may also be a, a child who is blind or who has low vision, conceptual knowledge, or just even indirect knowledge that’s missing. I mean you may not be able to look over and see your parents, or whomever, paying bills. Or writing checks. Or even paying for things. And how they pay. Whether they pay in cash or in plastic, as they say now, um, and so, even knowing how to do those things. Whereas someone with full sight may be able to have a lot of visual knowledge of, “Okay, this is how it’s done.” Uh, and so that could be a whole nother podcast, but I definitely think that that plays into it as well.


Chris: It definitely does. Do you want to hear more podcasts like this, where you have the opportunity to participate in Zoom and Clubhouse? Or, do you want to be involved in our five-year strategic planning process that we’re going to be kicking off later this summer? If so, send an E-mail to

and let us know, and we’ll add you to a mailing list where we will let you know about other podcasts that we do that are like this, and about the strategic planning meetings that we would like you to be involved in later this summer. And, do you enjoy the work that Penny Forward does, and do you think that financial literacy is important to the blind community? And do you want to learn more about financial literacy to improve your own finances? If so, please go to our website, which is

and click on the “join Penny Forward” link. Sign up there, during the month of April, which is Financial Literacy month, by the way. You will be entered into a drawing to win a hundred dollar Amazon gift card. Also, if you take our new Budgeting and Banking Basics course, that we are launching this month, then you will be entered into a fifty-dollar gift card drawing. This allows existing Penny Forward members to enter into a drawing along side those who, uh, might enter into the drawing for signing up during, during the month and getting a membership. So, go to

click on the “Join Penny Forward” link, and fill out the information there, and you will be entered into a drawing for a hundred dollar Amazon gift card. Then, go and take our Budgeting and Banking Basics course, and you’ll be entered into another drawing for a fifty-dollar Amazon gift card. And uh, stay tuned for future Penny Forward Podcasts. Want to thank you all for being here, everybody that participated,  everybody that is listening to this after it is officially released. The Penny Forward podcast is produced by Chris Peterson and Liz Bottner, with assistance from MOe Carpenter. Audio editing and post production is provided by Brynn Lee at

and transcription is provided by Anne Verduin. The music is composed and performed by Andre Louis, and Penny Forward is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help blind people navigate the complicated landscape of personal finance through education, mentoring, and mutual support. You can find more information about us at our website, which is

Now, for all of us in the Penny Forward community, I’m Chris Peterson, …


Liz: I’m Liz Bottner, …


MOe: And I’m MOe Carpenter.


Chris: And thanks for listening, and have a great week.


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