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Why Europe Sucks €5. Different sized banknotes

Not mine.Traveling can be a stressful activity.

Not only do you need to navigate an unfamiliar place, but you also need to keep track of numerous little things to make sure your journey goes smoothly; things like passports, airline tickets, bus passes, hotel keys, travel itinerary and, of course, your cash and credit cards.

Normally keeping track of some small papers, an ID, credit cards and money wouldn’t be that challenging of an activity. That is why man invented the wallet, after all.

But as anyone who has traveled to Europe knows, keeping track of your cash and your wallet in order isn’t that easy in Europe.


Because Europeans think it is clever to have the size of their banknotes increase with the denomination. For example, the €500 note is nearly 33 percent larger than the €5 note.

On the face of it, having different sized banknotes doesn’t seem like that bad. The varying sizes would give an additional visual and tactile feedback as to the bill’s value. But in practice different sized banknotes are a major hassle for most people and especially stressful for tourists.

The wildly different sized notes means that cash doesn’t fit nicely into a standard wallet. Large denomination bills hang out over the top of the wallet and crinkle up in your pocket while the small notes get lost in between the big bills like a scrap of paper in a file full of documents.

The end result of the situation is that you always have money hanging out of your wallet and can never find the small bills when you need them. The latter point is especially problematic because of the well known reluctance of European merchants to offer even the most basic customer service, like making change.

Of course, the Europeans adopt their typical sanctimonious attitude when questioned about their different sized banknotes and claim that they do it in order to assist people who are visually impaired or blind. But if the Europeans really cared about helping the visually impaired they would accept credit cards everywhere and eliminate fees. That way neither blind nor anyone else would ever need to fumble around with a pocket full of crinkled-up banknotes again.

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  1. Totally agree, varied sizes are a problem. especially when you have to fold some ends in the wallet.

    1. Greg Green says:

      I view the varying sizes of Euro bills as a plus. I have a normal-sized American wallet, and I’ve never had a problem with 50 Euro bills being too large. The fact that each denomination is a different color also makes it easier to quickly find the right bill in your wallet.

      I agree with you whole-heartedly on the public toilet situation in Europe (add to that the lack of public drinking fountains or free water in restaurants), but here I think Europe’s one up on us.

  2. Kolja says:

    If your €500 bill does not fit into your wallet, buy another wallet! It’s not like you don’t have any money :)

    Complaining about large bills is like saying “I hate that in the U.S. they only have bills up to $100. I always end up having so much paper in my wallet when I exchange my €500 bills.”

    I don’t think either problem is serious.

  3. […] Pay toilets €2. Nescafé instant coffee €3. Cheek Kissing €4. Inadequate air conditioning €5. Different sized banknotes Patriot Profiles: #1. CEPTIA #2. James […]

  4. […] Pay toilets €2. Nescafé instant coffee €3. Cheek Kissing €4. Inadequate air conditioning €5. Different sized banknotes €6. Internet cafes Patriot Profiles: #1. CEPTIA #2. James […]

  5. Pedro says:

    If you buy an standar European wallet you would not have any problem with popular (up to €100) banknotes. Of course, you may have if if you use to carry 500 euros may be, but that is no so common.

    Besides, can you imagine the problems that blind people have if all the banknotes had the same size?

  6. leito says:

    like Pedro already mentioned, the banknotes were designed to help blind people to identify the worth of them regarding to the size.

    I also think it’s a good idea because it’S easier to find the right note if you are paying if you know the sizes of them.

    If you have like 20 Doller Banknotes you won’t be able to tell which notes this are, but with Euros this would easily be possible

  7. […] They may have minimum-purchase requirements and credit-card surcharges, but the use of credit and debit cards is still spreading in the United Kingdom. It seems that even the most punitive, anti-consumer measures cant stop the spread of something as convenient as paying with plastic. According to an article from the Guardian, cash and coins will be used in less than half of all transactions in the UK withing five years. It is certainly progress. Now all they need to do is get rid of those Pound coins and make all their banknotes the same size. […]

  8. S.Jobeson says:

    I find having different colored and different sized bills is easier. Smaller bills are smaller….imagine that!

    In the US they are all the same size so you have to peel them apart and look closer to see which are which.

    Major US cities like NY don’t have public toilets either. Anymore normal and smaller sized rarely do either.

  9. Rachel says:

    I dont have so much of a problem with bill size so much as 1 and 2 euro being coins… I always leave Europe with a sooooooooo many (unexchangable) coins!

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