Japan, Malaysia and Singapore also see strong demand for new banknotes at Lunar New Year
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is not the only central bank in the world that needs to cope with the demand for lai see money – its peers in Japan, Malaysia and Singapore also have to print new banknotes for “lucky money”.
In Japan consumers can go to bank branches or post offices to exchange old banknotes for new ones to use as lai see during the Lunar New Year, or as gifts for weddings or new born babies, according to information posted on the website of Japanese banks and Japan Post.
While Hong Kong banks only offer a new banknote exchange service during the two weeks leading up to the Lunar New Year, many Japanese banks have counters at branches that allow customers to exchange new banknotes all year round.
Japan is known for having the “cleanest money” in the world because it circulates and prints banknotes at a high rate every year. It also uses special paper that is resistant to dirt and crease proof, which means people are almost always handling crisp, new notes.
Lydia Yip Siu-ming, head of currency and settlement in the financial infrastructure department of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, said the HKMA doesn’t have specific information about Japan’s banknote situation but knows that Japanese also use new banknotes for their own lai see tradition.
“The HKMA was contacted by the central banks of Malaysia and Singapore where there is a large Chinese community, and they also see demand for a huge sum of newly printed banknotes for lai see money during the Lunar New Year,” Yip said.
She said the two central banks are also studying the HKMA’s “ying-san” money programme launched in 2006, in which the authority encourages customers to give out lai see with banknotes that are used but still in good condition in order to reduce the demand on newly printed notes.
Yip said in mainland China the banknote turnover is low as the country is large and banknotes circulate in the market for a long time before being deposited back in the banks.