Many people are giving HK$1,000 banknotes a wide berth this year as they line up at banks on Tuesday for crisp new notes to be used in the traditional gift of lai see, or money presented in auspicious red packets.
Queues formed at some branches early in the morning for the purchase of fresh banknotes released by the three money-issuing banks ahead of the Lunar New Year, which begins on January 30.
Some of those standing in line expressed worries about a recent counterfeit scare that caused many shops to reject HK$1,000 notes.
Others said they would not use such big bills anyway, because of the inconvenience.
“Yes, fake notes are worrying. I used to get HK$1,000 notes for the lai see I gave to my children, but not this year,” said Lau Yeung-kau, 76, who withdrew HK$25,000 from the Quarry Bay HSBC branch.
Lau said he would use two HK$500 notes instead.
Veronica Li, 48, a housewife, said she did not get any HK$1,000 notes as she would not put so much money in red packets anyway, though she was also concerned about the spate of forgeries.
Li said she bought HK$8,000 worth of new notes this time. “I do not set a budget for giving out lai see. Like when you bump into friends in the streets, you couldn’t not give one to them, could you?” she said.
An elderly woman said she had always used two HK$500 notes instead of a HK$1,000 bill in red packets.
“Once, a taxi driver mistook my HK$1,000 note as HK$100,” the 75-year-old said.
She withdrew HK$10,000 in denominations of HK$500, HK$100, HK$50 and HK$20. “I won’t use HK$10 for red packets now. It is worth hardly anything,” she said.