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Eurozone to stop printing 500-euro bank note

The eurozone will stop printing 500-euro notes over concerns that they are the bills of choice for criminals.

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Image: Matthias Balk / EPA

Eurozone member states will stop producing 500-euro banknotes from 27 January, following a decision taken back in 2016 to discontinue printing the note.

At the time, the European Central Bank expressed concerns that the high-value bill could be used to facilitate illegal activities.

Some experts believe that the bill’s high value and mobility has made it useful for criminals looking to launder money or even finance unlawful activities such as terrorism.

Back in 2014, police in Finland called for the denomination to be taken out of circulation over similar concerns, but the Bank of Finland noted that the 500-euro note accounted for only a small proportion of payment transactions.

From 27 January, 17 of the zone’s 19 national central banks will no longer issue the bills, while central banks in Germany and Austria will continue to release them until 26 April "in order to ensure a smooth transition," the ECB said.

Notes still legal tender

Consumers holding the currency need not panic however as the banknotes will continue to be legal tender. This means they can still be used to pay for goods and services and they will also retain their value, meaning they can be used for saving.

Additionally, while no new notes will be printed after April, banks, bureaux de change and other commercial agents will continue to circulate the existing currency notes.

Consumers can also continue to exchange their 500-euro notes for bills of other denominations at any time.

The 500-euro note is one of the most valuable bills in circulation worldwide, along with the 1,000 Swiss franc note, valued at about 888 euros.

The 500-euro bill represented just over two percent of the region’s 521 million banknotes in circulation at the end of November, according to ECB statistics. The big-value bill accounted for around 20 percent of the value of notes in the euro currency bloc.

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