Want to Get Tough on Crime? Scrap the $100 Bill

Photo (cc) by 401(K) 2013

A former Treasury secretary is making a case for killing off the Benjamins.

Harvard economist Larry Summers, who was Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama, says removing high-denomination notes such as the $100 bill and the 500-euro note would have a negligible impact on ordinary citizens and legal commerce, but it would make it more difficult for criminals — including tax cheats, drug traffickers and terrorists — to conduct their illicit activities.

“The fact that … in certain circles the 500-euro note is known as the ‘Bin Laden’ confirms the arguments against it,” Summers writes in a column in the Washington Post.

Summers is referring to a recently published paper by Peter Sands, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government and former head of the Standard Chartered Bank.

The paper states that getting rid of high-denomination bills would help deter tax evasion, financial crime, terrorism financing and corruption because big bills are criminals’ preferred payment method “given the anonymity and lack of transaction record they offer, and the relative ease with which they can be transported and moved.”

Let’s say a criminal needs to transport $1 million. If he’s using $100 bills, he could fit $1 million in one briefcase, which would weigh in at about 22 pounds, the Economic Times explains. If the $1 million is denominated in 500-euro notes, it could fit in a small sack weighing about 5 pounds.

But wielding that much cash gets a bit trickier if criminals are forced to use lower denomination bills. For example, $1 million in $20 bills would require four briefcases and weigh just over 110 pounds. Suddenly making a $1 million transfer or payment isn’t quite so easy.

Summers writes that although removing existing high-denomination bills from circulation may be a step too far at this point, the United States and the European Union could agree to stop printing them and “make the world a better place.”

According to this data from the Federal Reserve, the $100 bill is the second most common note in circulation in the United States, just behind the $1 bill.

In fact, $100 bills make up a whopping 80 percent of the $1.4 trillion in U.S. currency that’s in circulation today, CNN Money reports. Much of this American currency is held outside the country, CNN Money noted.

The European Central Bank is considering ditching the 500-euro note, Reuters reported this week.

“The 500 euro note is being viewed increasingly as an instrument for illegal activities,” ECB President Mario Draghi told lawmakers in the European Parliament.

What do you think about getting rid of the $100 bill? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
12 Expenses You May Be Tempted to Claim as Tax Deductions — but Shouldn’t
12 Expenses You May Be Tempted to Claim as Tax Deductions — but Shouldn’t

Thinking of trying to deduct a few of these things on your federal tax return? That could be a costly mistake.

14 Service Providers Most Likely to Lower Your Bill If You Ask
14 Service Providers Most Likely to Lower Your Bill If You Ask

With these companies, it might be easier than you think to negotiate your monthly bill down.

10 Expenses You Should Not Put on a Credit Card
10 Expenses You Should Not Put on a Credit Card

Sometimes it’s simply safer to keep the plastic tucked away.

The 9 Best Home Insurers for Customer Satisfaction
The 9 Best Home Insurers for Customer Satisfaction

These are the only homeowners insurance companies to earn above-average scores for customer satisfaction.

17 Surprising Things You Can Clean in a Dishwasher
17 Surprising Things You Can Clean in a Dishwasher

It’s often easier and faster to put these household items in the dishwasher than to clean them by hand.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

What a $15 Minimum Wage Means for Social Security
What a $15 Minimum Wage Means for Social Security

A federal minimum-wage hike could affect the Social Security system dramatically.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.