$100 bills surpass $1 notes in circulation for first time

$100 bills surpass $1 notes in circulation for first time
© Getty Images

The Benjamins have outdone Washington.

The number of $100 bills in circulation surpassed the number of $1 bills for the first time, according to an International Monetary Fund report.

“There are more $100 bills circulating now than ever before, roughly doubling in volume since the global financial crisis,” the report noted.


The number of $1 bills in circulation has historically been the highest, and was followed by $20 until the Great Recession, when the $100 note overtook it in 2017.

Though some might see the increase as a sign of increasing wealth and income inequality, or the side effect of mobile payments and credit cards in reducing cash transactions, neither is the main culprit, according to the report.

Instead, it’s because the money is being held overseas.

“While overall demand for US currency is indeed on the rise ... most $100 bills are held abroad. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, nearly 80 percent of $100 bills—and more than 60 percent of all US bills—are overseas, up from roughly 30 percent in 1980,” it said.

Demand for large dollar denominated notes abroad could be up for a number of reasons, such as a growing underground economy and geopolitical instability.

“Whether it’s a conflict or refugee crisis in the Middle East or turmoil in Venezuela, it’s easy to imagine the importance of cash—particularly high-value, globally accepted currency—in unstable regions. Distrust of local currency is also thought to be a contributing factor,” the report said.