Banknotes and coins

Damaged and defective banknotes

General aspects

Although the paper on which the banknotes are printed is highly resistant, being 100% cotton, normal use eventually leads to their becoming worn and soiled. Furthermore, banknotes sometimes lose part of their surface or some of their features due to tearing, damp, fire, etc.

Although the Banco de España periodically replaces banknotes to maintain their quality, anyone in possession of a worn or soiled banknote may present it at a branch of the Banco de España, or at a credit institution for inspection and subsequent replacement by a new one.

As a general rule, it will be replaced if more than half the original surface of the banknote is presented, or if it can be shown that the missing part has been destroyed. Stained, soiled, torn or defaced banknotes, once inspected, can be exchanged for new banknotes of the same value. Another option is for the person presenting the spoiled notes to have the amount credited to a current account with a financial institution of his/her choice.

In some cases, specific standards apply:

  • Intentionally damaged banknotes

    In accordance with the provisions of the Decision of the European Central Bank of 19 April 2013 (ECB/2013/10) on the denominations, specifications, reproduction, exchange and withdrawal of euro banknotes, the right to issue banknotes held by the European Central Bank and the national central banks of the Member states with euro currency, as is the case with the Banco de España, involves the duty of taking the necessary legal measures to protect the integrity of euro banknotes as a means of payment, including adopting a common system for exchanging authentic, damaged euro banknotes.

    In this regard, the aforementioned Decision establishes that when national central banks have sufficient proof or evidence that authentic euro banknotes have been intentionally damaged, they will refuse to exchange them and will keep them in order to prevent them from recirculating or to prevent the person trying to exchange them from exchanging them at other national central banks. Similarly, it establishes that these banknotes will be exchanged when there is sufficient proof or evidence that the person exchanging them is doing so in good faith or when they can prove that they are acting in good faith. On this basis, it should be taken into account that writing, or making prints or inscriptions on the banknotes is likely to be considered as deliberate damage to the banknotes that could affect their integrity.

    Finally, it must be taken into consideration that any type of inscription, whatever its aim or purpose, constitutes an improper use of euro banknotes that does not correspond to its monetary purpose, which is the only appropriate use of legal tender banknotes.

  • Ink-stained banknotes by the activation of anti-theft devices

    Some cash transporting system and protected cash container, such a safe in a cash transportation vehicle or an ATM, incorporate devices loaded with security inks that, if activated, soaks the banknotes and makes them unusable and worthless. The activation may be due to a forced attempt to access (attempted theft) or to the accidental manipulation of the professionals in charge of the banknotes transportation and custody.

    If someone gives you an ink-stained banknote stained by an anti-theft device

    • Don’t accept it and ask for another one. You cannot be sure that the person offering you the banknote is the rightful owner.
    • Refuse bleached or discoloured banknotes, as criminals have most likely tried to remove IBNS ink stains by washing or bleaching the notes.
    • Bring it to your bank or a national central bank, letting them know how you got it.
    • If the investigations reveal that the ink stains are from an IBNS, you may not be entitled to a reimbursement. National central banks can exchange euro banknotes stained by anti-theft devices only at the request of the original banknote owner who was the victim of the criminal activity that led to the staining of the banknotes.
    • If the investigations confirm that the ink stains are not from an IBNS and the banknote has just been accidentally marked, you will receive a new banknote or a fund transfer into your bank account.

    For more information click in the following linkOpens in a new window.

  • Commission for the exchange of genuine euro banknotes damaged by anti-theft devices

    The exchange of damaged banknotes through the activation of antitheft devices, presented by professional clients (referred to in Article 6 (1) of Regulation (EC) 1338/2001), is subject to a commission of ten cents per banknote, if the number of banknotes exchanged is equal to or more than one hundred. In this case, the amount of the commission will be the result of multiplying the unit charge by the total number of banknotes exchanged. No commission will be charged when the banknotes have been damaged as a result of actual or attempted robbery, extreme situations which shall be evidenced by means of a photocopy of the report made to the police or judicial authorities.

  • Banknote with manufacturing defect

    In the exceptional event that a banknote has a production defect, it can be exchanged upon presentation under similar conditions at any branch of the Banco de España or through a credit institution.