Having some familiarity with Mexican currency before your arrival can help avoid confusion when it comes time to pay for purchases. Mexico’s currency is the Mexican Peso, and its ISO code is MXN. There are one hundred Mexican centavos in each peso. Mexican bills are of varied colors and have pictures of a variety of important Mexican historical figures printed on them.
The banknotes are printed in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 pesos. Twenty and 50 peso bills are printed on polymer plastic, so you can go swimming with them in your pocket with no worries. Higher denomination bills are printed on paper and have several security features that can help you distinguish genuine from counterfeit bills, including a watermark showing the face of the person on the bill, as well as the denomination. The texture of the paper is different from regular paper and has raised thermographic type.
The symbol for the Mexican Peso is the same as the dollar sign ($) which can lead to some confusion. To distinguish whether the symbol refers to dollars or pesos, you may sometimes see it presented as MX$ or the value with the letters “MN” after it, e.g. $100 MN. The MN stands for Moneda Nacional, meaning "National Currency." These photos of Mexican bills in circulation will give you an idea of what Mexican money looks like.
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753 - 1811) is pictured on the face of the Mexican one thousand peso bill. He is considered the father of Mexican independence as he played an important role at the beginning of Mexico's War of Independence. You may not come across this denomination of bill at all since they are used very rarely, but if you do, be sure to use it to pay a bill for a large sum at a restaurant, hotel or shop. It can often be difficult to get change at small establishments or on the street for 1,000 or even 500 peso bills. Plan accordingly!
500 Pesos note (issued in 2010)
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and the 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence in 2010, the Mexican government issued this 500 peso note featuring famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera on the front and his wife, the acclaimed painter Frida Kahlo, on the back,
500 Pesos (earlier design)
The face of Ignacio Zaragoza, a general who played an important role in the 5 de mayo battle in Puebla, adorned the front of the previous design of the Mexican five hundred peso bill. On the back, you'll see the Cathedral of Puebla. You may still come across some of these in circulation, but the other design (with Frida and Diego) is much more common. Five hundred peso notes, like the 1,000 peso notes, may also be difficult to change, especially with street and market vendors, so try to make change at your hotel or in a bank if possible.
The woman depicted on the Mexican two hundred peso bill is Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, also known as Juana de Asbaje. She was a writer, poet, and nun who lived during Mexico's colonial period, from around 1648 to 1695.
A ruler from the Prehispanic period, the poet-king of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl, is depicted on the 100 peso bill. A commemorative one hundred peso note was issued in 2017 and celebrates the centennial of its constitution. The main image on the face of the commemorative bill shows Venustiano Carranza, Mexico’s president at the time, next to the chairman of Congress, Luis Manuel Rojas, being sworn in before the Constituent Assembly after amending the Constitution.
Jose Maria Morelos was a priest and a talented field marshal who fought in Mexico's War of Independence. He is depicted on the Mexican fifty peso bill. This fifty peso bill which is printed on polymer was introduced in 2006. These plastic bills cost more to produce but are designed to last longer than paper money. At least you don't have to worry if they go through the laundry!
The Mexican twenty peso bill is blue and shows great statesman Benito Juarez on the face. Juarez, the only full-blooded native person to hold the presidency, is considered one of the country's great leaders, and sometimes referred to as Mexico's Abraham Lincoln. The polymer plastic version of this bill was introduced in 2007. It has a clear plastic window molded into the polymer substrate which you should not be able to separate from the note with your fingernail. There is a holographic design printed into the window.