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, NBA). 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 current 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 at 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 2018, the average number of banknotes in circulation was 471.3 million, with a value of CHF 79.0 billion. An overview of banknote circulation for each denomination is available at Banknote circulation.
How many banknotes does the SNB issue each year and how many does it withdraw from circulation?
In 2018, 376 million notes were issued and 363 million were withdrawn. The SNB put 129.0 million freshly printed banknotes into circulation. Further information is available at Issuing and redeeming banknotes.
Is the demand for cash in 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, there has been a substantial increase in the demand for cash. This is driven by the low level of interest rates and a greater propensity to hold cash as a result of the crisis. In 2017, the SNB carried out a survey of payment methods, with the aim of obtaining representative information on the public's use of different payment methods, and of identifying emerging trends. The Report on the payment methods survey was published at the end of May 2018.
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. The SNB plans to announce the recall date for these notes in the course of 2020.
What does 'the SNB is recalling banknotes from circulation' actually mean?
Banknotes that are recalled from circulation are no longer legal tender. Until further notice, a statutory period of 20 years after the date of recall applies, during which the notes can be exchanged at the SNB at full nominal value. The sixth banknote series (the predecessor to the eighth series) was issued in the 1970s and withdrawn from circulation with effect from 1 May 2000. These banknotes can still be exchanged up to 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 plans to announce the recall date for the eighth banknote series in the course of 2020. In April 2017, in agreement with the SNB, the Federal Council proposed that the exchange period be abolished and issued a consultative report (www.admin.ch, in German, French and Italian) regarding the necessary legislative amendments in February 2018. In early 2019, the matter was tabled for discussion by the Swiss parliament.
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 in the 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 perform valuations). Unlike numismatists, 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 a banknote which is larger than 50%, or provide proof that the missing part of the banknote has been destroyed. Further information is available in the 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: larger denomination banknotes are more often used as stores of value, while 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 2018, approximately 25% of the notes checked for authenticity and quality were destroyed, amounting to 101.3 million damaged or recalled banknotes. This figure is higher than average and stems from the introduction of the new banknote series, and consequently the destruction of returned notes from the old series. Further information is available at Sorting and destruction.
How can I avoid receiving counterfeit money?
The best way to avoid this is to familiarise yourself with the design principles and security features of the notes. Each banknote has several security features that can be checked without specialist equipment. For more information on the eighth series, see Security features; more information on the ninth series may be found at Security concept.
To what extent are our banknotes protected against counterfeiting?
Around 2,000 counterfeit banknotes are confiscated in Switzerland annually. This corresponds to between 4 and 6 counterfeits for every million Swiss banknotes each year - a very modest amount 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 on the reproduction of banknotes. For advertising and training purposes, the SNB will supply, on loan, digital images 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
P. O. Box
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 counterfeit notes 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.