Banknotes and Coins
Banknotes and coins (commonly knows as cash) are the most widely used means of payment in daily transactions, especially at retail level. There is, however, growing utilisation of electronic means of payment, a distinguishing feature of developed economies.
Cash is a traditional and popular means of payment, characterised by its high security level, practical utilisation, confidentiality and immediate liquidity. These characteristics will continue to confer on it a relevant role in the operation of the economy.
The economic agents should naturally use the different means of payment available in an efficient and rational manner, adjusting each of them (cash, cheques and electronic means of payment) to the specific type of transaction, as appropriate.
On 1 January 2002, euro banknotes and coins entered into circulation in the 12 Member States (including Portugal) that had adopted the euro on 1 January 1999 (Greece joined on 1 January 2001). Millions of citizens in these countries started to use in their day-to-day transactions a currency that is widely used at international level, and that has brought unequivocal economic and social advantages. Presently, the euro area is composed of 17 countries: Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Finland, as well as Slovenia (since 1 January 2007), Cyprus and Malta (since 1 January 2008), Slovakia (since 1 January 2009), and Estonia (since 1 January 2011).
The public must be well informed of the characteristics of banknotes and coins in circulation in order to easily verify their authenticity. In turn, it is rather useful to be acquainted with the range of rules and practices conferring on euro banknotes and coins the guaranty required for their acceptance worldwide as secure and reliable means of payment.