Europe’s central banks have not been issuing new 500 euro bills since 2019, and many of the 400 million purple bills are still in circulation.
Frankfurt / Main – Two years after the issuance of the 500 euro note was stopped, large quantities of the most valuable euro banknotes are still in circulation. In its latest statistics at the end of February 2021, the European Central Bank (ECB) counts a good 400 million pieces of the purple note with a total value of 200 billion euros.

This means that the value of the five hundred banknotes still in circulation is a third below the high in December 2015, when € 500 banknotes with a total value of almost € 307 billion were still in circulation. Nevertheless, the bill still represents 14 percent of the total euro banknotes in circulation. “Last year there was another surge in demand for the two largest denominations during the corona pandemic,” said Johannes Beermann, CEO of the Bundesbank. The Eurosystem’s banknotes in circulation increased by more than nine billion euros for the 100-euro note in March 2020 alone, with the two-hundred-euro note increasing by twelve and a half billion euros. The demand that was previously attributable to the 500 euro note seems to have moved to the next two larger denominations.

At the beginning of May 2016, the Governing Council decided to stop the production and issue of the 500 euro banknote “towards the end of 2018”. The Oesterreichische Nationalbank and the Deutsche Bundesbank last issued the purple note on April 26, 2019. The other 17 national central banks of the Eurosystem already stopped issuing the 500 euro note on January 26, 2019.

The five hundred in circulation remain legal tender and can be exchanged at the national central banks in the euro area without any time limit. In the first year after the issue stop, almost 37 million 500 euro banknotes with a total value of more than 18 billion euros were deposited with the Bundesbank.In May 2019 alone, according to the central bank in Frankfurt, five hundred banknotes worth over three billion euros were returned.

“Since then, the value of the monthly 500 euro banknotes deposited with the Bundesbank has tended to decline and was most recently in the range between half a billion and one billion euros,” said Beermann. Proponents of the waiver of the 500-euro note promise that terrorist financing and illegal work will be pushed back. However, there is no evidence or studies of the effectiveness of this measure. The population is still interested in large bills, as these can be used for larger purchases or to pay a deposit for a trip.