We check used banknotes for counterfeits, damage and soiling on a continuing basis. Each year, we check about 300 million banknotes, and the commercial banks also check millions of banknotes.
Approving and rejecting banknotesWe use state-of-the-art sorting machines, which can check some 2,000 notes a minute for authenticity and suitability. Approved banknotes are put into circulation again. Soiled and damaged banknotes are shredded and replaced by new ones. Counterfeit banknotes go to our own National Analysis Centre (NAC) for registration and further analysis.
Each euro banknote you withdraw from an ATM has first been checked. Banks, retailers and other cash handlers fill the ATMs. They use special sorting machines to check used notes. The equipment is tested annually. The inspecting firms must satisfy specific rules set by the European Central Bank (ECB). You will find an overview of tested equipment on the ECB's website.
Of all banknotes passing through our sorting machines, some 25% is rejected and destroyed. A third of all those banknotes are dog-eared, and more than a quarter are too smudged. Other reasons may be that they have sticky tape, stains or graffiti on them.
The public opinion about euro banknotes
We hold regular surveys to find out how the general public feels about the euro banknotes. Users appear to be happy with the quality of the banknotes, and most respondents rate them "clean" or "very clean".
On average, three out of four people do not consider graffiti on a banknote a problem. And dog ears are quite alright says the majority (more than 80%). While respondents do not mind whether a banknote feels a bit slack, they are highly critical of damage. And they are fairly unanimous in this respect. A banknote with a tiny tear is still acceptable, but a banknote with a somewhat larger tear is rejected. Banknotes with a piece missing are absolutely not acceptable to our respondents. And very smudgy banknotes are also rejected en masse. Read more about our survey.
If you have a damaged banknote
Did one of your banknotes get damaged? We will pay you the full amount if more than half of the banknote remains.