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Banknote circulation

Denomination
Amount in CHF
Amount in %
Number of notes
Number of notes in %
 
 
 
 
 
1'000
45,022,958,000
62.3%
45,022,958
10.6%
500*
103,622,000
0.1%
207,244
0.0%
200
10,246,218,200
14.2%
51,231,091
12.0%
100
11,836,968,900
16.4%
118,369,689
27.8%
50
2,615,250,800
3.6%
52,305,016
12.3%
20
1,682,864,720
2.3%
84,143,236
19.8%
10
747,139,110
1.0%
74,713,911
17.5%
 
 
 
 
 
Total
72,255,021,730
100%
425,993,145
100%

Table: Swiss banknotes in circulation on average in 2016
* These banknotes belong to the sixth series

The high proportion of large denominations indicates that banknotes are used not only as a means of payment but also – to a considerable degree – as a store of value.

Banknote circulation has risen drastically in terms of value since the SNB started business in 1907. To some extent, this corresponds to inflation. The illustration below shows the development of nominal banknote circulation and of banknote circulation in real terms, deflated using consumer prices (at the price level of 1907). These figures include banknotes of the former banks of issue, which circulated parallel to SNB banknotes until 1910, as well as Bundeskassenscheine (certificates redeemable in gold), which were issued by the Confederation and in circulation between 1915 and 1929. After that, from the end of 1907 to the end of 2016, nominal banknote circulation increased by 81,177%. The growth rate for banknote circulation in real terms is decidedly smaller, but still considerable at 7,146%.

Chart: Banknotes in circulation 1907–2016

Chart: The ratio between banknotes in circulation and GDP

The increase in banknote circulation is, in part, also a reflection of economic growth. The illustration above depicts the path of banknote circulation in relation to nominal gross domestic product (GDP). This shows that the ratio between banknote circulation and nominal GDP has fallen steadily since the end of the Second World War. In other words, banknote circulation has risen at a slower rate than nominal GDP. In the 1960s, the proportion of cash in circulation was double the current amount, totalling 16% of GDP. This development reflects the progress in payment technology, which has contributed to cashless payment transactions becoming more widespread and allowed companies and households to keep less cash on hand. By contrast, the first four decades of the century saw banknote circulation rising as a proportion of nominal GDP. Initially, the reason for this development was the increasing replacement of metal coins and drafts by banknotes in the early years of the SNB’s existence. Later on, general uncertainty during the First World War, in particular, as well as deflation at the beginning of the 1920s and again during the Great Depression in the 1930s, all contributed to the stockpiling of banknotes.

Since 2008, cash has regained its significance as a store of value. The persistently low level of interest rates is a major factor in the rise in demand for banknotes. In addition, the financial market and sovereign debt crises have helped to render cash holdings more attractive. The increased demand for small-denomination notes mainly reflects positive developments in private consumption.