Time limit to exchange old banknotes eliminated

The decision applies to bills starting in the sixth series issued in 1976, which includes the 100-franc note with a portrait of architect Francesco Borromini. Keystone / Str

Banknotes as old as 1976 can soon be traded in at the national bank following a decision by the federal government to eliminate the 20-year time limit.

This content was published on November 13, 2019 - 18:07
Keystone-SDA/jdp

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) issues a new series of banknotes every 15 to 20 years and removes the old notes from circulation. Six months later, the old notes don’t have a legal tender and therefore can’t be used as a means of payment.

However, old bills could still be exchanged with the Swiss National Bank at face value for 20 years – a deadline that was set in 1921.

On Wednesday, the federal government decided to eliminate the 20-year deadline, in effect making it possible for the owners of old 1,000-franc notes and other denominations to exchange them at the bank at any time. This is part of a partial revision of the Federal Act on Currency and Payment Instruments (WZG) that was approved by parliament earlier this year.

The decision will apply to bills of various denominations starting in the sixth series issued in 1976, which includes the 100-franc note with a portrait of architect Francesco Borromini. It is estimated that notes worth over one billion francs from this series are still in circulation.

This brings Switzerland in line with other major industrialised countries on eliminating time limits for exchanging currency.

The SNB will keep 10% of the exchange value of bills that are more than 25 years old. The remaining will be allocated to fundsuisse, the Confederation and the cantons.

The decision will come into force in 2020.


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