The Hong Kong Monetary Authority announced on Wednesday that it will launch new HK$20 and HK$50 notes on January 14, the same day that customers can start exchanging old notes for new currency in preparation for Lunar New Year.
The notes will be released by the city’s three note-issuing banks, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of China (Hong Kong).
The HK$20 notes will be themed around yum cha, or tea gatherings, while the HK$50 notes will feature butterflies. Of the 2.36 billion banknotes in circulation in Hong Kong worth a combined HK$503.9 billion, the HK$20 notes represent the highest share at 35.7 per cent, while the HK$50 dollar notes represent 10.4 per cent.
“The HK$20 banknote is the most circulated banknote in Hong Kong, and is part of the lives of Hong Kong people. Similarly, yum cha is a favourite [activity], as many Hongkongers like to go and enjoy dim sum lunches and tea with their family and friends. This is why we picked yum cha as the theme for the HK$20 banknotes,” Edmond Lau, the HKMA’s senior executive director, said.
“We chose to launch the new HK$20 and HK$50 banknotes on the same day the public can go to the banks to exchange notes for lai see money, as this is an effective way of widely circulating the new notes,” he added.
According to some estimates, at least HK$10 billion in lai see changes hands each Lunar New Year holiday.
Every year, the city’s three note-issuing banks prepare on average 350 million notes – including 55 per cent newly printed notes – in all denominations for lai see, according to HKMA statistics. These banks have printed a combined 260 million of the new HK$20 notes and 85 million of the new HK$50 notes, which Lau said were sufficient to meet the public’s needs.
The two new notes are the latest and last batch to be issued under the 2018 design series. The HKMA announced the designs of the new banknotes with the latest security features in 2018, but has launched them at different times.
Lau said the more than 240 types of butterflies found in Hong Kong were the inspiration for the new HK$50 notes. While the HKMA decides on security features and sets the theme, the three note-issuing banks come up with the designs.
Older notes will continue to be legal tender, Lau added.