I got a chance to visit Iran and I could learn a bit about their banking and payment system. In the following I’ve collected some notes about the currency/money and its use in Iran.
Currency in the I.R. Iran
The official currency of I.R. Iran is Rial (﷼). In one of uncountable exchange places in Tehran 1 EUR is currently traded for ~37.000 Rial. This apparently makes the Rial one of the least valued currencies in the world.
In the current (Imam Khomeini) series of bank notes issued by the central bank the highest value is 100.000 rial. However there are Iran Cheques in 500.000 and 1.000.000 denominations in circulation. These have been initially issued by major state banks (not the central bank) and are treated like cash. Supposedly the Central Bank initially refused to print larger notes in the fear of inflation and counterfeiting. But it allowed banks to print those cheques. Today these cheques are also printed by the Central Bank. But still they are cheques and no legal tender bank notes - but treated equally.
Also from what I have heard there have been plans of a redenomination and to remove 3 or 4 zeros from the notes.
Rial? no Toman?!
And now the confusion for me started. I knew about the Rial and most prices in fact are written in Rial. BUT people are using toman. Toman is a superunit of the official rial and 1 toman equals 10 rials.
So if somebody says it costs 2.000 she actually means 2.000 toman and thus 20.000 rials. But written prices are pretty much always rials.
For me this was super confusing in the beginning. Especially when I was not used to the amounts and did not know the general price level.
Unfortunately I could not test the card system myself. Debit cards are widely used. Pretty much every small shop seems to accept debit cards and on every corner of the major cities you will find ATMs.
Similar as you know it from any other country, except it is not connected to any international banking system and you will not see any VISA, MasterCard, etc. logo. Cards have been introduced in 2006 with the Shetab interbanking communication system. Before that, I was told, everything was pretty much cash based.
Surprising for me was that the POS devices are, for whatever reason, under sanction and thus scarce. I will next time try to get a debit card.
One of my interests was obviously to see if people know or use Bitcoin. A while back a shoeshop from Esfahan got a lot of attention in the Bitcoin media for accepting Bitcoin. They say, they want people to be able to get their amazing shoes but due to the sanctions people can not pay them, thus they accept Bitcoin payments. Unfortunately I could not meet or visit the shop this time. But I could talk to a lot of people about Bitcoin. Some have heard about it but have very little understanding of what it is and how it works. Others are researching but could not get bitcoin yet. So I could not find much happening yet, but there is a lot of interest. I hope websites like will continue to educate people.