When is a dollar not a dollar
I recently returned to Viet Nam from the USA and brought US dollars with me which I received from my bank in the USA. They were all genuine dollars, each with the same value regardless of the date they were printed.
When I went to exchange my dollars in HCM City for Viet Nam dong, I was told that not all the bills were worth the dollar exchange rate given. Bills printed with the smaller “100” on the face of the dollar bill were worth less than the bills with the larger print “100”. If I recall correctly, dollars printed before 1997 were worth less than dollars printed afterward, according to the State Bank of Viet Nam. Since when has a dollar not been a dollar? What is the explanation for this and is this legal? If it is legal, under what law or provisions is this justified? Would this action be in accordance with WTO, the World Bank, etc.
Roy Little, American, HCM City
We sent your questions to the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) and received answers from the Department of Issue and Vault. We then confirmed those answers with the Department of Foreign Exchange Management.
According to the responses we received, the SBV does not regulate on such details as printed numbers, figures or year of issue on the note when it comes to deciding the exchange rate. The SBV, in fact, only manages foreign currency at the macro level by regulating the inter-bank average exchange rate for each currency. The exchange offices must follow that regulated exchange rate range to set up their exchange rates.
However, staff at the Department of Issue and Vault did agree that some money exchange offices can set their own regulations for notes that can bring them more benefit. He advised you to check the websites of prestigious banks in Viet Nam or at Viet Nam News for an average rate before going to exchange bills. And be sure that the bills you want to change are genuine, he added. He said that a dollar would always be a dollar and there was no difference in exchange rate for a US$1 bank note or a US$100 bank note.
So you can be sure that there is no specific law or provision issued by the central bank regarding your concerns. Do check a reliable source for exchange rates next time and ask about the laws that exchange offices ask you to follow.
Good luck with your exchange.