For people to have confidence in euro banknotes, these have to be genuine and look and feel of high quality. The national central banks therefore check all euro banknotes to ensure that they are authentic and not damaged or dirty before re-issuing them.
The NCBs have fully automated banknote processing machines to check the banknotes they receive and to sort them to maintain high standards of quality. In 2019, the NCBs categorised some 5.1 billion banknotes as unfit for circulation and replaced them. Soiled or damaged banknotes are destroyed.
Euro banknotes which are damaged or mutilated (e.g. partially burnt, cut or decomposed) and which fulfil certain criteria are replaced by the national central banks of the euro area. For example, a national central bank will replace a damaged euro banknote if more than half of it is present or if it can be proven that the missing (larger) part of the banknote has been destroyed. Intentionally mutilated or damaged euro banknotes are not replaced.
In principle, the replacement is free of charge. A fee is charged for euro banknotes which have accidentally been damaged by anti-theft devices.
For details, see:
- Decision of the ECB of 19 April 2013 on the denominations, specifications, reproduction, exchange and withdrawal of euro banknotes (ECB/2013/10), OJ L 118, 30.4.2013, p. 37.
- Decision (EU) 2019/669 of the ECB of 4 April 2019 amending Decision ECB/2013/10 on the denominations, specifications, reproduction, exchange and withdrawal of euro banknotes (ECB/2019/9), OJ L 113, 29.4.2019, p. 6.
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- Decision ECB/2013/10. Unofficial consolidated text produced by the Publications Office of the European Union, 19/05/2019.
- Guideline of the ECB of 19 April 2013 amending Guideline ECB/2003/5 on the enforcement of measures to counter non-compliant reproductions of euro banknotes and on the exchange and withdrawal of euro banknotes (ECB/2013/11), OJ L 118, 30.4.2013, p. 43.
For the postal address of your national central bank, please see its website.