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I am going to Spain and have some €500 notes. I have been advised that they are not accepted.

Will the banks accept them and change them?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – RoflcoptrException Sep 30 '16 at 8:02
  • I think it depends on a place mostly. Small shops and restaurants probably won't accept it, meanwhile huge stores and hotels (I rented apartments at Lugaris) take 500 euros without any problems. – William Morris Oct 18 '16 at 13:59

10 Answers 10

39

Stores

They are practically very rarely accepted. Not sure about how legal that is, but some stores even explicitly put signs they don't accept 500 EUR bills.

e.g. like this one (although this one is not from Spain):

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Banks

For banks - I would be surprised if private banks where you don't have account, would go for breaking 500 into five 100s for you. Probably only the national bank would do that - not sure how that works in Spain and how available are they.

  • 21
    My local supermarket has stickers not accepting €100 and €200, they do not even mention €500 as nobody here has those. – Willeke Sep 26 '16 at 20:46
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    That point had already been made and the answer hardly seems to address the question, which is about banks. – Relaxed Sep 27 '16 at 7:28
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    "Not sure about how legal this is" - Where I live there is a legal distinction between settlement of a debt and making an offer to purchase. Which means a retailer can make their own rules about what banknotes and coins they accept. – RedGrittyBrick Sep 27 '16 at 9:59
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    The banks comment may be pretty false: every retail bank I ever walked into in Austria (which is also part of the Euro Zone) has an (explicit or implicit) cash counter where they will change your note into smaller notes. However they probably will charge an arm and a leg if you do not have an account there. Grzegorz, where are you from? Maybe we need a separate question to settle that :-) – Martin Ba Sep 27 '16 at 13:05
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    I can say for personal experience that the bank will want to charge you if you are not a customer. – Diego Sánchez Sep 28 '16 at 8:57
34

500€ banknotes are perfectly legal in EU, and as such they are accepted all over the EU.

They are however been used a lot for criminal activities, so it's been decided that they will be faded out before the end of 2018; they were used a lot in Spain, especially, and on the opposite they now quite disappeared.

But this has nothing to do with you using them: as I said, they are perfectly legal. The real problem here is...where can you use them? Maybe you can go to a Valentino's store and pay a dress with 500 euro notes, but if you plan to go to e.g. the grocery...it's not that they will not accept them, it's just that they will not be able to give you the change. If you are willing to pay 500 euros for six eggs and a kilos of tomatoes...why not? ;-)

About the banks: as long as notes/coins are legal, they can be changed without worries. (even when they are not legal anymore, in many cases, but this is a totally different story)

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    Actually, they are not really "well accepted", precisely because most stores don't *(want to) have enough cash on hand to give change on a €500 note. – Relaxed Sep 26 '16 at 14:43
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    @phoog Not really. Larger stores will certainly move much more than this in a day but make an effort not to keep that much cash in any individual check-out. Smaller shops might but even then, it would be hit and miss depending on how late you come, how much business they had in a given day and whether it's mostly cash-based or not. – Relaxed Sep 26 '16 at 14:48
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    @phoog any medium-sized store will move money to the bank many times a day to avoid becoming a target for armed robberies. And if they don't need to do this because they don't reach that business level, then they would hand a single customer 90% of their money for a single change to a 500 euro note, and proceed to refuse every other customer all day long because they can't do any change any more. – motoDrizzt Sep 26 '16 at 14:51
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    @phoog Interestingly Europe (or even the eurozone) is very diverse in this respect. I do know some high-end shops in cash-friendly countries like Switzerland that are happy to accommodate very large cash payments, if necessary by asking the customers to go to a separate room. On the other hand, I know small businesses in France which wouldn't necessarily have that much cash, supermarkets with a pneumatic system to move the cash from the checkout to a safe as frequently as possible and countries where most transactions would be card-based. – Relaxed Sep 26 '16 at 15:01
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    @SztupY which supports my (heretofore implicit) point: the reluctance to take these notes is very tenuously related to the ability to make change, if at all. Of course a big supermarket can produce €150 in change. It seems far more to do with avoidance of counterfeit notes or other fraud. – phoog Sep 26 '16 at 16:46
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Spanish Here. They are rarely accepted because of security concerns, and usually (in small stores) that extends to 100 euro and 200 euro notes also.

If you need to use them, you can always ask for change in any bank.

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    Wait, they won't take my 100€ bill even if I make 100€ worth of purchases? – Dmitry Grigoryev Sep 27 '16 at 11:04
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    No, since the bill might be fake. That's the risk of high denomination notes - cashiers rarely handle genuine examples and can be easily tricked, plus criminals can spend moderate amounts (e.g. > 10€) per note making a high-quality forgery and still profit. – innisfree Sep 27 '16 at 12:40
  • 200€ is totally not accepted where I live (Austria, also seen in Germany) too. The info for the €100 Notes is quite surprising - never seen anyone in any store that wouldn't accept it (given that you were paying an amount near on in excess of 100 € ) – Martin Ba Sep 27 '16 at 13:07
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    Here from Barcelona. If you purchase items for a value in the same order as the bank note, usually the only thing will be that they will check the note in a device to detect counterfeit. Anyway, you should avoid trying to pay a small purchase with a big note. Even trying to pay a 95 cent bar of bread with a 50E note won't make the baker happy. Furthermore, bars and shops where no big purchases are expected don't have such a device nor a lot change. Anyway, banks usually give change to non customers. – Pere Sep 27 '16 at 16:09
  • @DmitryGrigoryev: They have to judge the risk. Stranger making €5 purchase with €100 note - you risk losing €100, and that's what someone with forged money would do, so the risk is huge. Stranger making €100 purchase with €100 note - you risk losing the cost of the €100 purchase. Riskier if it is something that is hard to resell. But of course the customer could come back and ask for a refund; receiving €100 genuine money for €100 fake. €100 note from known customer - little risk. – gnasher729 Jan 13 '17 at 12:44
19

In almost every major and minor store, supermarket and bar, there are signs / drawings / notices that state : "The cashier won't accept cash payments of over €100/200/500" depending on the size of the store.

The reason? to prevent dealing with false notes, to prevent money laundering, and to prevent having to deal with lot of cash (and its inherent responsibility) in case of robbery (doesn't happen as commonly as in USA, but is a legit fear to have).

PS: there's also a law that completely bans any type of cash transaction of over €2,000.

PS-2: the next law applies to every store, business, bar, supermarket, etc. :

59.1.e) del Real Decreto 2816/1982 - every public oriented company is free to pick which clients it wants to serve, as long as the requirements to meet are not racist / of hate.

This article clearly states that a store, bar, or whatever, can refuse to serve you as client as long as there is no invalid reason (race, religion, skin colour).

This includes clothing (refusing you because you're shirt-less is valid), weird or non-permitted payment methods, being an awful whining client…

Sources: I live in Spain.

  • "doesn't happen as commonly as in USA" = not true... Spain has 201 robberies per 100k population while US had 146 (source). – Joe Sep 29 '16 at 14:37
  • that data is not only 10 year old and biased, but doesn't even state sources . on the other hand, data from past year states that over 39% of spain's "robberies" are employee shopliftings. on the other hand, in 2015, usa had an economical impact of 1.6% of the total sales, belgium 1.5%, and france and spain had 1,4 %. the robbery ( non-employee theft) per capita was at 7.7 robberies per 10.000 inhabitants on 2014. – CptEric Sep 29 '16 at 14:47
  • sources, spain wins slightly to usa in the 2015 charts on this one : phx.corporate-ir.net/… – CptEric Sep 29 '16 at 14:48
  • and let's not start on the more important point : armed robberies per capita. – CptEric Sep 29 '16 at 14:51
11

In many countries in the eurozone, shops tend to post signs along the lines of “we refuse banknotes larger than €100” for various reasons so in that sense, €500 would indeed not be well accepted. They are however still perfectly valid, even as the ECB announced it would stop issuing new ones.

In general private banks should therefore have no problem with it but might not necessarily offer cash services to non-customers. If nothing else works, you should however be able to exchange them at one of the branches of the Banco de España.

No matter what you do, if you want to change a large amount of cash, you might have to present ID or satisfy some other reporting requirement.

11

Yes, they are accepted, of course. 500 euros notes are perfectly legal. As stated before, you might have trouble using then in some places.

In the other hand, there are places that will accept them regardless of the amount you buy. One of this kind of places is one of the biggest commercial galleries chain in Spain, called "El Corte Ingles". Those stores are almost everywhere (in all big cities, and most smaller ones), and will accept your bank note without hesitation, even for small amounts bought. You can go there, buy a 12€ music cd, for example, and get your change in smaller notes.

11
+50

Banks: It has been mentioned that banks will accept to change 500€ notes. Don't count on this! I have been present (I live in Spain) when people try to do just this and get refused. There seems to be some discretion here, but its impossible to fathom. The main argument used is that it is the bank's policy not to change money for non-clients and that it has to go through an account, i.e. you pay your large note into your account and take money back out of the account in whatever form is convenient for you. The idea being to generate a paper trail for possible fraud or money laundering investigations.

5

As others have posted, the €200 and €500 bills are not accepted in small stores, for amounts easily payable with lower denominations.

I worked ten years ago at a fast food restaurant and we were responsible for any cash imbalance -- meaning a counterfeited €500 bill could ruin your monthly pay... one or two months!

Having said that, and despite the fame of Spain regarding the number of €500 bills here, for normal people these bills are extremely rare to see, so having to handle one of these is awkward. The same applies, and these are even rarer, for €200 notes.

  • Downvoter: care to explain? – orique Jan 15 '17 at 10:43
0

Banks will accept them, most retailers won't. You will be able to exchange those 500€ bills for smaller ones at the bank, still you will need to carry all that money with you. Why not just put the money on a savings account and use a credit/debit card. I don't know where you live, maybe you will loose a small exchange fee but walking around with a lot of money means you can loose all of it. My boss had his wallet stolen last year in Barcelona. I'm not saying crime in Spain is higher than somewhere else, just advising not to take any risks when it's not necessary and you will not gain a lot by taking the risk.

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    This does not really answer the question beyond what has been said in the other answers. – mts Sep 27 '16 at 9:44
  • @mts I thought the fact of pointing out the risk was worth the post. I was thinking about posting as a comment first but decided to go for an answer because of all the comments the post had already. – DiscoFever Sep 27 '16 at 9:47
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    Crime is not high in Spain, but pickpocketing to tourist is a major concern in Barcelona. Therefore, I would avoid carrying a lot of cash while looking as a tourist in a touristic zone. – Pere Sep 27 '16 at 16:12
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    I actually like this answer for suggesting the use of a debit/credit card, because it's the best idea and it seems to me nobody suggested it (me included) – motoDrizzt Sep 27 '16 at 18:15
-7

The EU may have a Legal Tender rule similar to the US (I do not know). If so, then technically, they cannot be refused.

However, there are practical considerations that make such large denominations difficult to use.

The most common reason is the merchant's simple inability to provide change. In the US, many merchants try to keep less than $100 in the register.

It was explained to me by a banker friend that a business can refuse a large bill by simply refusing the transaction. This is legal because they are not specifically refusing the note and "having only $100 notes" is not a protected class.

A retail bank should accept the note without issue.

Note, I am fully aware that a merchant is not compelled to accept any current for any reason. There is no misconception here.

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    This is a commonly misunderstood. Legal tender means that the note must be accepted in satisfaction of a debt. In a store transaction, as your banker friend notes, there's generally no debt; the store can refuse the transaction, so the concept of legal tender does not apply. I expect that any such laws in the eurozone vary from one country to the next. – phoog Sep 26 '16 at 15:28
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    @phoog The fact that “legal tender” doesn't apply in a US store is no reason to believe that Spain doesn't have such a rule. For example in France, a store is required to accept any valid coin or banknote as long as the customer gives exact change (on the other hand, the merchant would be allowed to refuse a €500 bill if the customer had to pay €499.99). I don't know if Spain has a similar rule; indeed these vary even inside the Eurozone. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 26 '16 at 16:26
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    I downvoted because "technically, they cannot be refused" is flat out wrong as an answer to the OP's question. If you attempt to pay for a pack of chewing gum with a 500 euro note, it can and will be refused. – lambshaanxy Sep 26 '16 at 21:05
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    So in summary, the answer to the question about whether 500 Euro notes are accepted in Spain, is that $100 bills can't be refused in the US except when they are. – Berwyn Sep 27 '16 at 3:56
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    And if that's all your answer is saying, what does it add to the other answers? – MadHatter supports Monica Sep 28 '16 at 5:44

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