The South African Reserve Bank is not introducing a R500 banknote

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Although it is unclear what the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) will do in the future, for now, it has said it does not have any plans to introduce a R500 banknote (worth about $31) as misleadingly claimed by multiple social media posts. Furthermore, images of the purported new note have actually been shared online for more than a decade and are fake, according to the central bank. The rumour is circulating anew after the publication of a business article looking into the hypothetical requirements for SARB to issue a new, higher denomination banknote.

“Note design R500,” reads the caption of a Facebook post published on June 7, 2022. The post includes images of both sides of the purported new note and claims SARB is considering bringing it into circulation. 

A screenshot of the misleading post, taken on June 8, 2022

South Africa's highest denomination note is R200 (about $12.50).

Other social media posts here and here also implied SARB was considering the introduction of a R500 note.

The claim, however, is misleading.

Hoax design

A reverse image search of the purported banknote led to articles from 2009 calling the existence of the note fake.

A screenshot of the 2009 article, taken on June 10, 2022

At the time, SARB said the design, which was then circulating via email, was a fabrication.

The reappearance of the claim along with the images appears to be a misinterpretation of a business news report from June 6, 2022, that included an interview with SARB experts. 

The headline of the article by South Africa’s BusinessTech reads: “Reverse Bank on R500 note and R10 coin for South Africa”. 

A screenshot of the article, taken on June 10, 2022

The text of the article, though, clearly explains there are no plans for new R500 notes. 

According to the report, a SARB study from 2020 found that South Africa was not ready for a R500 note and it would only be viable when the highest denomination “is the most circulated banknote”.

“This is, however, not the case in South Africa as the R100 denomination is the most circulating banknote. The other reason is whether the R200 is still used as a store of value – which it is – and therefore does not warrant a change,” SARB was quoted as saying.

The bank confirmed to AFP Fact Check that, based on its last study, there were no plans to introduce a R500 note.

“SARB does not have any plans to introduce a R500 banknote or a R10 coin, at all,” said SARB spokeswoman Thoraya Pandy, adding that SARB, like other central banks, regularly does research on its banknotes and coins.

The highest denominated coin in South Africa is R5.