100 Euro note in Florence not accepted

My daughter is currently doing a semester study abroad in Florence and claims that no one (shops, banks, grocery stores, etc.) will take a 100 Euro note for payment. And it is not to pay for some trivial expense like a pack of gum; it was for books, groceries, etc. where the amount was, say, 50 Euros. She said most places told her that 'they don't have the change'. The New Jerseyite in me says....well.....that's got to be bull. Maybe in some small Tuscan village, but in central Florence with its zillion tourists? She told me that even a bank wouldn't provide change for the bill. Anyone else have a son/daughter in Florence right now who has had a similar experience? All I could think of is my daughter is a college student and maybe people think the bill is bogus. Or, if she didn't dress and act respectfully, I could see someone possibly being hesitant to accept the bill, but such is not the case. So, this strikes me as very strange. I have never had trouble paying for something with a 100 Euro note anywhere in Western Europe (even Florence on a previous trip) if the amount due was, say, 50 Euros or more. But I am no longer of college age (that went bye bye long ago). So, any ideas what gives? Maybe Florence native Roberto could chime in. Thanks.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
4369 posts

Not strange at all. Ever see those signs dotted around the good ole USA that say "no bills over $20 accepted"...

Unfortunate, but not strange.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
6704 posts

I've never had that problem since the Euro notes exist (Jan 1, 2002) and I go to Florence at least once a year. Not even with a €500 note a couple of times actually. My parents never used credit cards (or not even ATM cards) in their lives and most older Italians pay cash for everything (cutting checks costs money too because Italian banks charge a fee for each check you use), so people using big bills are the norm, not the exception. I can understand a small shop not wanting to get rid of their small bills which they might need to give change, but a bank is very unusual. Tell your daughter to try in some other place, because that must be a fluke.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5687 posts

Is she trying to spend it first thing in the morning when the stores have just opened? Tell her to try a regular grocery store later in the day. Most businesses do not have change for large bills when they first open.

I can't get change for large bills at my own bank in Frankfurt either. They just don't do it. It certainly has nothing to do with how she is dressed.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
1160 posts

Would she have a problem trying to make a smaller purchase here with a $100 bill? Because that is what she is doing, actually it's about a $135 note. I have seen lots of places in and around Philadelphia that will not take, let alone break, a Benjamin.

Tip -tell her to request amounts in 50 euro, not 100 euro, multiples from the ATM, and avoid the problem.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
6704 posts

Tell her to try at Coin on via Calzaioli or Rinascente on Piazza della Repubblica. Those are bigger dept stores.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
6726 posts

I'm also skeptical that a bank wouldn't change it, but I'm wondering how she ended up with a 100 euro note in the first place. Has she tried being a little creative? I'm thinking if she's at a restaurant with a group of friends, the bill could easily approach or top 100 euros. Get them all to pay in cash, then she picks up those smaller bills and pays with the 100.

Posted by Gerard
Temora, NSW, Australia
241 posts

all our atms provided 50e notes followed by the last 100 in smaller notes. Often the 50e notes were checked , sometimes with a special pen for fakes, so understand the 100e being harder to deal with.

Posted by Devon
833 posts

Robert, I only remember doing this with 50€ bills - not 100€ - but when I was studying abroad one of the ways I would break down 50€ was to either use it on groceries (which I know you've said she still has problems with - I agree with another poster, maybe try earlier in the day?) or I used it at the train station in the self-service machines when I bought tickets. Now, it is very possible that the machines do not take bills that high, but as long as there was enough change in the machine I remember it accepting 50€s.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
7337 posts

Most train ticket machines will give up to €20 in change, so the ticket would have to cost at least €30. This info is posted on the payment method screen.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5687 posts

Not earlier in the day, later in the day, after a business has had a chance to take in enough money to make change. A large grocery store or department store is always going to have change later in the day, but not when they first open.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
399 posts

Changing a 100Euro note is not just a problem in Italy. A few years ago in Baden Baden I had to go to four banks before I found one that would change my 100Euro note.
The explanation? Too many counterfeits.
Most places in the U.S. will not accept $100bills for the same reason.
I make sure now never to take anything larger than a 50Euro note.

Posted by Robert
Happy Valley, PA
313 posts

Thanks to everyone for your replies. It was interesting to hear that others had some difficulty changing/paying with 100 Euro notes even beyond Italy. Conclusion to the story: A travel agency in Florence accepted the 100 Euro notes today as payment towards an upcoming trip.

Posted by bchucks
2 posts

It's possible that the bank won't change the note because she's not a member - I know that is frequently true of larger banks in the States as well.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
4033 posts

I've had lots of trouble paying with a 50 euro or 100 euro bill in Paris, let alone smaller towns all over Europe... very frustrating.
I pay with $100 bills here where I live and in SF all the time and have never had a problem.

Posted by MC-Glasgow
Glasgow, Scotland
816 posts

Not uncommon. I've seen signs in France and Spain saying they do not accept 200€ and 500€. I've seen them by tolls on the motorway. Although rarer I have seen the same for 100€ notes. In one hypermarket in France a customer in front paid with a 100€ note, which was accepted after the manager had been called and it was taken to be changed into lower value notes which were given to the customer to give to the checkout operator.

In the UK it is common for £50 notes to be treated the same. Usually this is to due with potential forgery, but also even in quite big shops it would wipe out the change.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
6704 posts

As I said, so far I haven't had problems with any denomination, including even the €500. Of course I wasn't making small payments with those large bills. I wouldn't try to pay an espresso with a €200 note.
However here in California many places (especially fast food restaurants) do not accept any bill denomination over $20 (and even have signs stating so), therefore I don't think that what you've experienced in Europe would be considered unusual.
Many supermarkets and department stores in Florence however have devices that use UV ray technology to recognize fake notes, therefore they don't usually have problems accepting large notes.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
1116 posts

Larger bills (50/100) have not been accepted from me at shops despite the charges being significant. I put it in the "toilet category" as when you see an opportunity, you take advantage of it. For example, when paying a hotel bill I present the largest bills in possession, despite having smaller bills that could make the total. A no-fee ATM card assists as well for more frequent withdrawals. Large bills readily accepted where I live, so shop 'til you drop.

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
785 posts

I have had people in Italy decline to accept 50 euro notes. If I pressed the issue they might, but as a tourist I try not to be one who insists on things if I can work around it. When you draw larger amounts out of ATMs to economize on fees, as I recall they tend to give you fifties. Unfortunately no one wants them, which is one of the less convenient things about traveling there. I have not been since 2007 so maybe it's better now but it sounds like it's not.

Posted by Judy
Adelaide, SA, Australia
909 posts

When we were in Amsterdam last year, we paid for our 3 nights B & B accommodation in cash. The owner was reluctant to accept the payment in 100 euro bills, as she said there had been a significant number of counterfeit scams involving 100 euro notes. This may be a factor in the rest of Europe.

Posted by steve
troy, ny
501 posts

I was in Spain this past September and never had a 100€ note. I had no problems using 50s. My friend had several 100s and never had a problem using them. Mind you, it was not for something that would cost 20 euro. And this was not in one of the major cities but in Alicante.

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
504 posts

I have never had problems using 100€ notes, but I prefer smaller bills. I did once have a cash machine give me 100€ notes, so some of the machine do have them. I was irritated, but as someone else said, I paid my hotel bill with them.
I guess I must just be fortunate, because I have never had a $100 bill turned down anywhere in the US so long as they had sufficient change in their till. I do try to use them when the amount due is significant though.

Posted by shirley
Toronto, Canada
381 posts

Over the last three years, I've noticed that it's getting harder and harder to use even 20 euro notes for small purchases and tought to use larger notes in Florence. And, there seems to be an increasing tendency not to want to had over coins either! It's almost as if we are back in the age of the lire when small coins were a rarity and I was used to getting candy in lieu of change.

I don't understand this - it's not as if coins aren't readily available all over the euro zone and I have not had this problem in France or Belgium, Portugal or Spain - just Italy.

When using a 50 euro note (I try not to ever get 100 euro notes), I try to make it so the change is easy to give me - eg a 10 or a 20 exactly, but with the change situation being what is, this is becoming a real pain.

I'm heading to Italy again soon and have good currency exchange with good rates where I live so I'm going to get a supply of small bills before I depart. And, I have a change purse full of coins which I hoarded from my last trip to France, just to use in Italy.

So no solution, just commiseration.