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Questions and answers on banknotes

In Switzerland, who is allowed to issue banknotes?

According to art. 99 of the Federal Constitution, the Confederation has the exclusive right to issue banknotes. The Confederation has transferred its exclusive right to issue banknotes (note-issuing privilege) to the Swiss National Bank (art. 4 National Bank Act). The SNB issues banknotes commensurate with demand for payment transactions and takes back any banknotes which are worn, damaged or surplus to requirements due to seasonal fluctuations. The banknotes are printed by Orell Füssli Security Printing Ltd on behalf of the SNB.

Which banknotes can I use for payment in Switzerland?

The banknotes issued by the SNB are considered as legal tender (art. 2 Federal Act on Currency and Payment Instruments, CPIA). There are 1000, 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10-franc notes in circulation. The eighth banknote series will gradually be replaced by the ninth series in a process scheduled to take place between April 2016 and 2019. Notes from the eighth series will remain valid until further notice. All information on the new banknote series can be found under New banknote series. Many businesses in Switzerland also accept euro banknotes as a means of payment. If no other payment instrument is contractually agreed, banknotes denominated in Swiss francs must be accepted as payment without restriction (art. 3 CPIA).

How many banknotes are in circulation?

In 2015, the average number of banknotes in circulation was 406.5 million, with a value of CHF 67.4 billion. An overview of banknote circulation for each denomination is available under Banknote circulation.

How many banknotes does the SNB issue each year and how many does it withdraw from circulation?

In 2015, 421 million banknotes were issued and 409 million were withdrawn. The SNB put 107.7 million freshly printed banknotes into circulation. Further information is available under Issuing and redeeming banknotes.

Is demand for cash on the decline as a result of cashless payments with debit, credit and cash cards, etc.?

Cash (which includes both coins and banknotes) primarily fulfils two functions: it is used as a payment instrument and as a store of value, and is thus in competition with other means of payment and stores of value. Cash is legal tender which is simple to use and available to everyone. It is therefore an important element of a functional economy. As well as using cash, payments can also be made via cashless payment methods, something which has recorded strong growth in recent decades. Currency in circulation has also continued to grow over this period, although to a lesser extent. However, since the advent of the financial crisis and in the current low interest rate environment, the demand for cash has again strengthened.

How much does it cost to produce a banknote?

The cost of producing one of the new banknotes (development, paper, printing) averages around 40 centimes.

How long will the eighth-series notes currently in circulation remain valid?

Notes from the eighth series will remain legal tender until further notice and may continue to be used without restriction. Once the last denomination of the ninth series has been issued, the SNB will announce a recall of the notes from the current series.

What does 'the SNB is recalling banknotes from circulation' actually mean?

Banknotes that are recalled from circulation are no longer legal tender. However, they can be exchanged at the SNB at full nominal value for twenty years after the date of recall. The sixth banknote series (the predecessor to the eighth series) was issued in the 1970s and withdrawn from circulation effective 1 May 2000. These banknotes can still be exchanged until 30 April 2020. After this date, the banknotes lose their value or, at most, may gain collector's value. The SNB transfers the countervalue of banknotes that remain unexchanged to the Swiss Fund for Aid in cases of Uninsurable Damage by Natural Forces (art. 9 CPIA). The SNB will only recall the notes from the eighth series once the last denomination of the ninth series has been issued.

How and where can I exchange banknotes from older banknote series?

Banknotes that have been recalled but not yet declared invalid can be exchanged at the SNB's offices and agencies. Further information is available under Instruction sheet on exchanging recalled banknotes.

Does the SNB deal in banknotes that have been declared worthless?

Banknotes that have been declared worthless can no longer be used as legal tender, although they may have collector's value. The price is set according to supply and demand, and the condition of the banknote (the SNB does not conduct evaluations). Unlike numismaticians, antique shops or banks with a numismatic section, the SNB does not deal in withdrawn and invalid banknotes.

Can I exchange damaged banknotes at the SNB?

The SNB replaces damaged banknotes if the serial number can still be recognised. In addition, the bearer of the banknote must either present a portion of the banknote which is larger than 50%, or provide proof that the missing part of the banknote has been destroyed. Further information is available under Instruction sheet on exchanging damaged banknotes.

Can I exchange foreign currency at the SNB?

No, foreign currency cannot be bought or sold at the SNB.

How long is a banknote used for before it is destroyed?

In general, banknotes with greater values are in use for longer than those with smaller values. This can be put down to the way in which they are used: banknotes of a larger denomination are more often used for storing value, while notes of small denominations are primarily used as legal tender and therefore change hands much more frequently. The 200-franc and 100-franc notes are in circulation for four years on average, whereas the 50-franc, 20-franc and 10-franc notes already have to be replaced after two to three years. The 'life expectancy' of a 1000-franc note is more than ten years. In 2015, approximately 16.9% of the notes checked for authenticity and quality were destroyed, amounting to 70.8 million damaged or recalled banknotes. Further information is available under Sorting and destruction.

How can I avoid receiving counterfeit money?

The best way to avoid this is to make yourself familiar with the design principles and security features of the notes. Each banknote has several security features that can be checked without the aid of special devices. For more information on the eighth series, see Security features; more information on the ninth series may be found under Security concept.

To what extent are our banknotes protected against counterfeiting?

Between 3,000 and 4,000 counterfeit banknotes are confiscated in Switzerland annually. This corresponds to 10 to 15 counterfeits for every million Swiss banknotes each year - a very modest number by international standards. Further information on counterfeit currency is available on the Federal Office of Police website (www.fedpol.admin.ch).

What should I do if I receive counterfeit money?

Any coins or banknotes that are suspected counterfeits should be handed in to the nearest police station for examination. Any person who puts counterfeit money into circulation is liable to prosecution.

Can I reproduce banknotes for advertising purposes?

Banknotes are protected by provisions in the Swiss Criminal Code (www.admin.ch). It is forbidden to counterfeit money to pass it off as genuine or to alter it to pass it off at a value higher than its true value. It is also forbidden to import, acquire or store counterfeit money, or to put it into circulation. Reproduction of banknotes for advertising purposes is also restricted. Reproduction and imitation must avoid any risk of confusion with genuine banknotes. Examples of reproductions which avoid the risk of confusion with genuine banknotes are listed in the Instruction sheet concerning the reproduction of banknotes. For advertising and training purposes, the SNB will supply, on loan, digital images of banknotes with a resolution of 150 dpi with the word 'SPECIMEN' written on them. Applications, together with details of the intended use, should be sent to the following address:

Swiss National Bank
Cash Division
Bundesplatz 1
CH-3003 Berne
bargeld@snb.ch

Why do banknote series have to be replaced?

The SNB wishes to ensure a high level of security for its banknotes. As technology develops quickly, the SNB must constantly work to stay ahead so that counterfeits have little or no chance. Furthermore, security features typical on previous banknotes are now used for security documents, medicines and branded goods, which is why new elements must be developed for banknote security.

When will the other denominations of the new series be released?

Following the issuance of the 50-franc note in April 2016, the 20-franc is due to be released in spring 2017. The remaining banknotes in the series will be issued subsequently at half-yearly or yearly intervals. The 10-franc note will be followed by the 200-franc, then the 1000-franc note and, lastly, the 100-franc note. Issuance of the entire series is scheduled to be completed by 2019.