Fed ships new US$100 bills with anti-counterfeit features

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US Federal Reserve began supplying banks on Tuesday with billions of redesigned US$100 bills that incorporate advanced anti-counterfeiting features.

The notes, which retain the image of American statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin, include two new security features - a blue three-dimensional security ribbon with images of bells and 100s, and a colour-changing bell in an inkwell. The US$100 bills, the biggest US denomination known in American slang as "Benjamins", also keep security features from the previous design, such as a watermark.

"The new design incorporates security features that make it easier to authenticate, but harder to replicate," Federal Reserve Board governor Jerome Powell said in a statement.

US officials have said the US$100 note is the most frequently counterfeited denomination of US currency outside the United States due to its broad circulation overseas. In the US, the US$20 bill is the most frequently counterfeited note.

Ms Sonja Danburg, programme manager for US currency education at the Fed, said about 3.5 billion new US$100 bills had been stockpiled. There are about US$900 billion in US$100 notes in circulation, with half to two-thirds outside the US, she said.

The US has about US$1.15 trillion in genuine currency in circulation, and less than 1/100th of 1 per cent of that value is counterfeit, Ms Danburg said.

Benjamins are the highest-denominated notes issued by the Fed since the US stopped issuing US$500, US$1,000 and US$10,000 notes in 1969. The new bills have been in development since 2003. The new bills cost about 12.5 US cents each to make, 5 US cents more than the previous notes because of the greater complexity of the design, Ms Danburg said.

The average US$100 bill lasts about 15 years before wearing out and being pulled from circulation. The more frequently handled US$1 note lasts about six years, Ms Danburg said.

The Fed said people with old bills did not need to trade them in for new ones since all designs of US currency remained legal tender.

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