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Germany and Austria stop issuing €500 notes

April 26, 2019

The last of Europe's central banks have stopped issuing the large-denomination bank note. Germany and Austria were given longer than their European neighbors as the bill was used comparatively often.

500 and 100 euro notes
Image: Colourbox

The German Bundesbank and Austria's National Bank stopped issuing the €500 ($557) bank note on Friday, three months after it had ceased to be handed out in the rest of the eurozone.

The delay reflects a preference among consumers in both countries to continue to use banknotes for everyday purposes such as shopping, and for savings. Existing €500 notes in circulation will continue to be legal currency.

One of the world's highest-value banknotes, the €500 note's withdrawal leaves Switzerland's 1,000-franc bill (€878) and Brunei's 10,000-dollar note (€6,628) at the top of the league of high-value paper currency.

€500 banknote
€500 banknoteImage: picture-alliance/APA/B. Gindl

Laundering cash

Within the eurozone, the €500 euro note makes up just 2.3% of paper currency in circulation but it is used more in both Germany and Austria. By contrast, the €50 note totals 25% of all euro banknotes in circulation.

According to the European Central Bank (ECB), the €500 bank note was used primarily by criminals to disguise their illegal income, and to launder money.

The eurozone's central bank has been redesigning all paper notes to make them more difficult to fake: "The ECB has a duty to safeguard the integrity of euro banknotes and continue to improve banknote technology," an ECB spokesman said last week. 

New notes in May

At the end of May, the ECB will issue new €100 and €200 notes with enhanced security features and a hologram with small euro symbols that move around the number and sharpen under direct light.

"The new €100 and €200 banknotes benefit from the same security features as the €50 banknote, such as a portrait in the watermark and in the hologram, plus new and upgraded ones that make them harder to counterfeit but still easy to check," the ECB spokesman said.

jm/ng (Reuters, dpa)

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