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 Ltd on behalf of the SNB.
Which banknotes can I use for payment in Switzerland?
The banknotes issued by the SNB are considered 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 was gradually replaced by the ninth series between 2016 and 2019. All information on the ninth banknote series can be found under New banknote series. If no other payment instrument is contractually agreed, these banknotes must be accepted as payment without restriction (art. 3 CPIA).
How many banknotes are in circulation?
In 2021, the average number of banknotes in circulation was 532 million, with a value of around CHF 88 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In 2021, 279 million notes were issued and 269 million were withdrawn. The SNB put 64.5 million freshly printed banknotes into circulation. Further information is available under Issuing and returning 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 well-functioning economy. As well as using cash, payments can also be made via cashless payment methods, which have recorded strong growth in recent decades. Currency in circulation has also continued to grow over this period, although to a lesser extent. In 2017, the SNB carried out its first survey of households regarding 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. The second payment methods survey of Swiss households, carried out in 2020, indicates a significant decline in the use of cash for payment purposes.
In addition, the SNB launched a survey on payment methods of Swiss companies for the first time in summer 2021. The results of this company survey were published in February 2022.
How much does it cost to produce a banknote?
The cost of producing one of the new series banknotes (development, paper, printing) averages around 40 centimes.
How long will the eighth-series notes remain valid?
These banknotes were recalled as of 30 April 2021 and are thus no longer legal tender. They can be exchanged for an unlimited period of time at the SNB at full nominal value.
What does 'the SNB is recalling banknotes from circulation' actually mean?
Banknotes that are recalled from circulation are no longer legal tender. However, notes from the sixth series onwards can be exchanged at the SNB for an unlimited period of time at their full nominal value. The countervalue of notes not submitted for exchange within 25 years is allocated in accordance with art. 9 CPIA.
How and where can I exchange banknotes from older banknote series?
Banknotes that have been recalled but not yet declared worthless can be exchanged at the SNB's cashier'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 its own valuations). Unlike numismatists, antique shops or banks with a numismatic section, the SNB does not deal in such 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.
What is the lifespan of the ninth banknote series?
The 10-franc, 20-franc and 50-franc notes, which are very commonly used for payments, are in circulation for three to six years on average, while the 100-franc, 200-franc and 1000-franc notes have a longer life expectancy. The longer lifespan of the larger denomination banknotes is a function of their tending to be used more frequently as a store of value purposes.
How many banknotes were destroyed in 2021?
In 2021, approximately 27% of the notes checked for authenticity and quality were destroyed, amounting to 79.5 million damaged or recalled banknotes. The drop in this figure shows that a large proportion of the recalled eighth-series banknotes have already been replaced. However, this process is still continuing. Further information is available at Sorting and destruction.
How can I avoid receiving counterfeit money?
To what extent are our banknotes protected against counterfeiting?
Around 1,000 counterfeit banknotes are confiscated in Switzerland annually. This corresponds to between two and three counterfeits per million Swiss banknotes each year - a 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.