|People buy "lucky money" envelopes on Hà Nội’s Hàng Mã Street. Due to high demand for new, small banknotes to be given as lucky money, illegal money exchange services mushrooms ahead of Tết. — Photo news.zing.vn|
HÀ NỘI — Online services for exchanging old notes for new ones mushroom in the days prior to the Tết (Lunar New Year) holidays, although the activity is illegal and charges fees ranging from eight to 120 per cent in some cases.
The service meets the high demand for small notes and new notes to be given as "lucky money" to children during the holiday, as well as to be offered in pagodas during Tết, because the State Bank of Việt Nam had not provided sufficient small notes to commercial banks for their clients, reported the Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
With a click, people in HCM City, for example, can easily access a Facebook account named “Đổi tiền mới, đổi tiền lẻ HCM”. The service offers to exchange new notes of VNĐ500 (2 US cents); VNĐ1,000 (4 cents); VNĐ2,000 (8 cents); VNĐ5,000 (22 cents); VNĐ10,000 (44 cents); VNĐ20,000 (88 cents), VNĐ50,000 ($2.3) and VNĐ100,000 ($4.3).
A service fee of 120 per cent is charged for VNĐ500 notes; 50 per cent for note of VNĐ1,000; 20 per cent for notes of VNĐ2,000 and VNĐ5,000, 10 per cent for notes of VNĐ10,000 and VNĐ20,000 and 8 per cent for notes of VNĐ50,000 and VNĐ100,000.
In Hà Nội, people also easily find many such service “providers” by typing “đổi tiền lẻ mới” or “ đổi tiền mới lẻ”. The VNĐ1,000 notes go for a service fee of 30 per cent; 10 per cents for VNĐ5,000 notes and 15 per cent for notes of VNĐ10,000 and VNĐ20,000.
People are also interested in buying foreign notes, including $2 notes considered lucky, and banknotes of other countries, such as those of Bhutan, Myanmar and Brazil that feature animals considered holy in Vietnamese tradition - a dragon, a kylin, a turtle and a phoenix. The dragon symbolizes power and strength, the kylin is believed to be a creature that protects people from bad luck, the turtle is a symbol of health and longevity, and the phoenix represents beauty and wisdom.
A service provider in HCM City’s Nguyễn Kiệm Street said people had to pay VNĐ55,000 ($2.5) to buy a $2-note.
In Hà Nội, the owner of a Facebook account that exchanges foreign notes said people had to pay about VNĐ54,000 to buy a $2 note.
Several online websites charge customers about VNĐ400,000 ($18) to buy a $2 note of lucky money for 2017, the Year of the Rooster, and VNĐ160,000 ($7) for a collection of notes printed with the four holy animals.
A note of VNĐ20,000 - the version issued in 1991 by the State Bank of Việt Nam - is offered at VNĐ45,000.
Nguyễn Hoàng Minh, deputy director of the State Bank of Việt Nam’s HCM City branch, said the money exchange services are illegal. Minh said the branch had set up teams to inspect and deal with such services. The branch also sent a message ordering staff not to abet the money exchange providers, he said. — VNS