Money changers up prices for Tet holiday hinh anh 1Currency exchange shops are busier than ever as the Tet (Lunar New Year) nears. (Photo:

HCM City (VNA) - Currency exchange shops are busier than ever as the Tet (Lunar New Year) nears. With such demand, the likelihood of overcharging customers increases.

In HCM City, money changers are offering newly minted notes of 500 VND (2 US cents) to 10,000 VND (0.45 USD) for a fee that is between 9 and 16 percent of the value of the note.

"Most customers want only 500 VND and 1,000 VND (0.05 USD) notes. The fee is 16 percent and notes of 10,000 VND are around 6 percent," an owner of currency shop in Phu Nhuan district said.

Most people prefer new and smaller banknotes for donations to pagodas. For use as lucky money for Tet, they buy notes of 10,000 VND and more.

"My money exchange service often reaches 600 million VND (27,000 USD) in sales one month before Tet. I can earn around 100 million VND (4,500 USD) profit," he said.

Currency shops in wholesale markets, such as Ben Thanh Market and Tan Dinh Market, are offering "money trees" of different sizes for sale.

Trees with many folded 5,000 VND and 10,000 VND "flowers and leaves" sell for 1 million VND each.

Shops charge at least 400,000 VND to design a tree with the customers' notes.

Customers are also interested in buying collections of notes from Bhutan, Myanmar and Brazil, printed with four animals called the Four Holy Beasts, including the dragon, qilin, turtle and phoenix. The notes are seen as auspicious symbols.

Vendors charge 170,000 VND (over 7 USD) for a set of four bills, over 10 times higher than the exchange value.

The 10 trillion banknote of Zimbabwe and a note printed with boats and sails reflecting luck and success of the Maldives sell for 100,000 VND (4.5 USD) each.

Ancient banknotes printed in red and yellow are also selling well.

Money changers online are also taking advantage of Tet to charge higher fees for newly minted notes.

Several websites offer "lucky money" exchange services, selling American, Australian and Indonesian banknotes and coins printed with monkeys to celebrate the coming lunar year, the Year of the Monkey. These special products sell for 100,000 VND-450,000 VND (20 USD) each.

Dao Minh Tu, Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), has said that the SBV for the last three Tet holidays saved 1.5 trillion VND (67.5 million USD) by not printing newly minted small notes.

He said the SBV instead will offer smaller notes already in circulation for use during Tet.

"HCM City has a fairly large supply of new notes but the amount is limited. As a result, not all customers will be able to change currencies," said Nguyen Thi Nhu Y, a resident of Binh Thanh district.

After Tet customers would return small notes in exchange for larger denomination notes because they do not want to use them on normal days.-VNA