What Is a Banknote? Example, Importance, 8 Facts

A banknote is one of the world’s most common forms of currency. A banknote has many features which makes it unique, not least of which is the paper used to print the note. Here we look at the different types of banknotes, and what makes them so special.

What Is a Banknote?

A banknote is a type of negotiable promissory note that may be used to transfer money from one person to another.

What Is a Banknote?

A banknote’s face value specifies the amount owing to the bearer on demand. Banknotes are legal tender, and combined with coins, they constitute all current money in its bearer forms.

How Does A Banknotes Work?

Prior to the establishment of modern civilization and monetary systems, gold and silver were used as currency in barter economies. These physical goods, however, were gradually replaced by paper money and coined coins. As a result, the newly minted money was backed at the time by precious metals.

Paper money can now only be insured by the government. Private banks used to be able to issue banknotes, but now only the Federal Reserve Bank is authorized to do so. Banknotes are used in billions of transactions every day all around the world.

The paper currency issued by the United States government could formerly be exchanged for precious metals by its citizens. In this arrangement, paper money was linked to a specific amount of gold or silver.

What Is a Banknote?

However, in 1964, the US government began to phase off the bimetallic standard, and by 1971, the US had totally abandoned the gold standard.

This move resulted in the creation of a fully fictitious currency backed purely by the government’s pledge to honor its obligations.

The value of fiat currency is determined by market forces of supply and demand rather than any specific product. Because fiat currency is not backed by anything of actual worth, hyperinflation undermines its value.

For example, if citizens in the United States lose faith in their government and the dollar note in the distant future, it will become worthless. Fortunately, the collapse of the US dollar is quite improbable.

Banknotes, currency notes, and bills are all terms that are frequently used interchangeably. Currency notes, while technically promissory notes, are more typically utilized in day-to-day transactions.

Example of Banknotes

Assume you assisted a friend in relocating and they offered you a $100 gift card as a thank you. Your $100 gift card cannot be withdrawn from an ATM, put into a bank account, or exchanged for another form of money (such as cash) at a financial institution.

What Is a Banknote?

However, if your friend gave you legitimate $100 bills, you could deposit them in a bank account or swap them for other cash or items of comparable value.

Do I Need a Banknote?

Because the United States, like many other countries, only accepts banknotes as legal tender, the simple answer is yes if you want to pay for goods and services there with cash.

However, with the growing usage of debit and credit cards, you may not need to carry any cash. It is vital to have some type of collateral to back up the ability to use a cash replacement, such as a good bank account balance.

History of the Banknote

Historically, gold and silver were used to back up US money. In 1971, the United States abandoned the gold standard as legal tender, transforming its paper currency into a “fiat currency” whose value is determined exclusively by trust in its worth.

Prior to the Federal Reserve taking over the administration of banknotes in the 1800s, private banks regularly created their own banknotes. Gold coin deposits, for example, would be swapped for paper money.

What Is a Banknote?

The banknotes guaranteed that the holder might return to the issuing institution at any time to exchange them for gold coins. On some of the banknotes, there was a time and interest feature.

A private bank would issue a banknote and pay interest on it for a set length of time, after which the holder might redeem it for gold at the bank.

Because of the paucity of lower denominations in circulation, banknotes produced by private banks were greatly sought for. Due to the availability of private banknotes, individuals may swap valuables such as gold coins for pocket change.

Nowadays, you may acquire banknotes of any denomination from a bank; for example, you can ask for a $50 bill and get five $10 bills in exchange.

Banknote Symbols

Each Federal Reserve note bears several identifiers, such as the year the note’s design was approved. Please click the image to learn more about the symbols used to identify these currencies.

What Is a Banknote?

Serial Number

Both the front and reverse of the note carry a unique set of eleven numerals and letters. Each banknote is assigned a unique serial number. The first letter of the serial number indicates the year of the series.

1996 A 2003A F 2009 J
1999 B 2004A G 2009A L
2001 C 2006 H 2013 M
2003 D 2006 I 2017 N
2004 E 2006A K 2017A P

To denote their status, notes that are replaced during manufacturing are given a “star” suffix.

Series Year

If the Treasury Secretary authorized a new design, or if a new secretary’s or treasurer’s signature was added to an existing design, that year will be displayed as the series year. Major redesigns of a note are signified by the use of all capital letters following the series year.

Federal Reserve Indicators

The note features a letter and number combination that identifies which of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks issued a specific $5, $10, $20, $50, or $100 bill. Each indicator has a letter that matches to the second letter of the serial number written on the banknote.

A1 Boston E5 Richmond I9 Minneapolis
B2 New York City F6 Atlanta J10 Kansas City, MO
C3 Philadelphia G7 Chicago K11 Dallas
D4 Cleveland H8 St. Louis L12 San Francisco

Each of the twelve Federal Reserve banks is represented with a seal on the $1 and $2 banknotes.

What Is a Banknote?

Note Position Letter and Number

The position letter and number of a note tell where a specific denomination was written on a plate. This is true for notes of $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. The code, which comprises of a letter and a number, is printed on the bill’s front.

In 2014, the BEP began printing $1 banknotes on 50-subject sheets. On these larger sheets, location is denoted by columns and rows rather than quadrants. Take notice that the 50-subject sheet’s location IDs go from A1 to J5.

Face and Back Plate Numbers

The digits on the front plate and back plate of the note indicate which printing plates were used to manufacture each side. The face plate number of the note is visible in the upper left-hand corner, while the back plate number is visible in the upper right-hand corner.

On Federal Reserve notes printed in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Fort Worth, Texas, branch, a little “FW” appears in front of the face-plate number.

What Is a Banknote?

Treasury Seal

The Treasury Department, indicated by the green seal to the right of the image, is a branch of the US government. Beginning with the 1969 series year, all Federal Reserve notes have a new seal design that incorporates an English inscription.

Alternatives to Banknotes

Aside from utilizing genuine banknotes, there are other ways to get purchasing power. For many consumers, credit and debit cards have supplanted cash, and the great majority of companies now accept them. You can also pay with a check if you have enough money in your bank account.

You may use applications like PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App to make quick payments, but you still need cash on hand in case something goes wrong.

Furthermore, digital currencies such as Bitcoin are gaining popularity as a legitimate means of trade. However, Bitcoin is not as dependable as conventional money and is not widely accepted.

Polymer Banknotes and the Bank of England

In 2013, the Bank of England considered using polymer banknotes. Canada, like many other nations, now employs banknotes composed of a plastic-like substance, which makes them easier to clean and more difficult to counterfeit.

What Is a Banknote?

Better security features, reduced replacement costs (since polymer lasts two and a half times longer than paper), resistance to water and dirt, and less negative environmental consequences are all advantages of using polymer banknotes.

There were a number of drawbacks to replacing paper banknotes with polymer ones in the United Kingdom, including a higher initial manufacturing cost, counting difficulties due to the new material’s slipperier nature, folding difficulties, and concerns about the new material’s compatibility with existing vending machines and automatic payment systems.


A banknote, often known as a note, is a type of legal tender that a government can issue. A central bank, sometimes known as a government bank, is the most prevalent body in charge of producing money.

A bank note’s value may be denominated in gold or silver in certain situations, but it may also be exchanged for bonds or other assets issued by the issuing bank in others.

Bank notes are used to transact billions of dollars every day since they are recognised as legal tender. In other words, a bank note is a type of currency.

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