PRESS RELEASE

Update on the euro cash changeover

7 January 2002

The first week of the introduction of the euro banknotes and coins appears to have been a great success for the new money. Both the acceptance by consumers and the achievement of logistical targets have surpassed all expectations. Dr. Willem F. Duisenberg, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), stated that "the euro is on its way to passing its final exam very successfully. The first days of the euro cash changeover were the most critical, in particular the first shopping Saturday. Minor difficulties, if any, have been overcome, with the support of European citizens, who have accepted their new money rapidly, and with enthusiasm." The euro has become the main trading cash currency for the 304 million citizens of the euro area. More than 50% of transactions are already being conducted in euro. The conversion of automated teller machines (ATMs) is now finalised. However, it will take somewhat longer to complete the conversion of vending machines given the high number of machines.

In order to ensure the continuation of a smooth changeover for consumers, bankers and retailers, the ECB recommends that consumers exchange high-denomination national currency banknotes at banks and avoid using them for small transactions at retail outlets. This operation can be effected at banks free of charge. The ECB also recommends that, as far as possible, payments of small amounts should be made with the exact money and that mixed payments (i.e. partly in euro and partly in national currency) should be avoided.

The supply of euro banknotes and coins is in line with expectations and, globally, no shortages of denominations are foreseen, despite some problems with the availability of low denominations – mainly of coins – that may arise at the local level. Between 1 and 4 January the total value of euro banknotes in circulation rose by 38%, i.e. an increase of around EUR 50 billion in value, from EUR 132 billion to EUR 183 billion. Nevertheless, the level of stock of low-denomination euro banknotes at the 12 national central banks of the euro area represents at least 60% of the amount in circulation and is sufficient.

So far, only a few crude euro banknote reproductions have been put into circulation and were immediately detected. Now that consumers have euro in their pockets, they should take the opportunity of becoming more familiar with the security features. Three simple tests "FEEL – LOOK – TILT", which were outlined in the 200 million leaflets distributed by the Eurosystem, i.e. the ECB and the 12 national central banks of the euro area, allow all cash-handlers, both professionals and the general public, to check the authenticity of a euro banknote in a matter of seconds.

For further information on the euro cash changeover and the three tests, please visit the ECB's website at http://www.ecb.europa.eu and the Euro 2002 Information Campaign website at http://www.euro.ecb.int.

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