Plastic money made its debut in Canada on Monday, when the central bank brought its new $100 bills into circulation.

The innovative bills became available to the public Monday afternoon, giving Canadians their first chance to hold a polymer bank note in their hands.

"There's no other currency like it anywhere in the world," Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney said Monday afternoon.

The new bills have been designed to be more durable and long lasting than their paper predecessors.

Carney said the high-tech bills are expected to last at least 2.5 times as long as a conventional paper bill and they will be recycled when they are taken out of circulation.

The bills have a transparent window on them, as well as some transparent text.

The bank governor said the bank notes "contain the unique combination of transparency, holography and other sophisticated security elements."

The new $100 bills feature two portraits of prime minister Robert Borden, as well as an image of a researcher at a microscope and a depiction of DNA.

A similarly constructed $50 bill will follow in four months' time. Further plastic money will be in circulation by the end of 2013.

Carney said we are still living in an era when many consumers choose cash over credit or debit, which means that the bank has to ensure that its money is hard to counterfeit.

"The reports of the death of cash are greatly exaggerated," Carney said.

"Our research shows that cash is used for more than half of all shopping transactions and Canadians, as a consequence, need a currency that they can trust."

With files from The Canadian Press