For how long are my old banknotes still valid?

13.11.2019

As of next year, you can exchange Swiss banknotes from the sixth series onwards at any time. Here are the most important questions and answers on the subject.

1.    When going through my grandparents' effects, I found a few old 1000-franc notes. Can I still exchange them?

It depends which series they are from. All banknotes up to and including the fifth series are no longer exchangeable, because the exchange period has already elapsed and the countervalue has been paid out, so they have been declared worthless. You can exchange banknotes from the sixth series onwards at any time.

2.    What do the sixth-series notes look like?

The sixth series is well known for the "Borromini" 100-franc note and the 1000-franc note with the ants. It was issued between 1976 and 1979. The seventh series was a reserve series, and was never put into circulation. The eighth series (with Giacometti on the 100-franc note) was issued between 1995 and 1998. The website of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has details of all banknote series.

3.    Where can I exchange my banknotes?

Either directly at an SNB counter or by post. An instruction sheet on exchanging recalled banknotes is available on the SNB's website. The instruction sheet also lists the addresses of SNB branches and agencies.

4.    Can I still pay with a "Borromini" or "ant" banknote?

No. Just because there is no longer any exchange period does not mean that these notes can also be used freely as a means of payment. It is still the case that notes lose their legal-tender status six months after being recalled. After that, holders of such notes need to exchange them at the SNB, which will check their authenticity and origin. Even if the exchange period is abolished, this does not alter the exchange procedure at the SNB.

5.    Why was the exchange period abolished only from the sixth series onwards, and not applied retroactively?

Up to now, any related earnings achieved by the SNB after the expiry of an exchange period have been paid into a fund. The last time this happened was in 2000 for the fifth series. The fund provides assistance in the event of uninsured damage from natural disasters. In the past, it has financed its payouts (approximately CHF 4 million per annum) with the investment income from its assets of around CHF 270 million. Since the transfers of earnings from earlier series cannot be reversed, it is not possible to reintroduce an exchange period for older banknotes – the funds are no longer available at the SNB, because it has already transferred them to the disaster fund.

6.    Why was the exchange period abolished?
The removal of a limit on exchanging banknotes is aimed at avoiding situations in which people are holding banknotes that suddenly become worthless. Moreover, Switzerland is aligning its practice with that in the major advanced economies, which do not have an exchange period. When the exchange period was originally introduced, the circumstances were completely different. In the meantime, living conditions have changed considerably; in particular, populations (workforces, tourists, etc.) have become much more mobile.

Further information can be found here:

Last modification 13.11.2019

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