The 500-euro bill is being discontinued after criticism that the banknote had become a handy aid to money laundering.

The European Central Bank's 25-member governing council made the decision at a meeting Wednesday.

Banknotes currently in circulation will remain legal but will no longer be issued after late 2018.

The ECB said it was "taking into account concerns that this banknote could facilitate illicit activities."

The bills — the biggest denomination for the euro — are rarely seen in day-to-day circulation, and some merchants don't take them. Yet they make up around 30 percent of the roughly 1 trillion euros ($1.15 trillion) in circulation and have turned up in money-laundering investigations.

A million euros in 500-euro bills weighs 2.2 kilograms (just under 5 pounds) and fits in a laptop bag.