How to check your banknotes

Learn how to check if your banknotes are genuine or counterfeit.

Overview

You can see close-ups of all our banknotes, including details of their security features, in our banknote guides:

Online banknote training

The training highlights the security features on our notes, which you can use to check your notes are genuine.  We also offer advice and a short test to check your understanding. It takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Banknote training

Free banknote education materials

Watch our short film which covers the key security features on all our current banknotes:

  • The Bank of England banknotes. There are four denominations of banknotes in circulation: £5, £10, £20 and £50. There are £5, £10 and £20 notes printed on polymer. And £20 and £50 notes printed on paper. This film will run through a number of key security features. You should check these features to ensure notes are genuine.

    The following security features are found on the polymer notes. There is a large see-through window. A portrait of the Queen is printed on the window with the numerical value of the note and the words 'Bank of England' printed twice around the edge. A metallic image is positioned over the window. The foil is gold on the front of the £5 and £10 notes and blue and gold on the front of the £20 note. The foil is silver on the back of all notes. On the polymer £20 note, there is a second, smaller window in the bottom corner of the note.

    Below the large see-through window on the front of the notes, there is a silver foil patch containing a hologram. When you tilt the notes from side to side, the words change between the value of the note and 'Pounds'. A 3D image of the coronation crown appears above the see-through window.

    The following security features are found on the paper notes. When you tilt the paper £20 note from side to side, the holographic images on the foil strip change between a '£' symbol and the number '20'. When you tilt the £50 note up and down or side to side, the images on the green motion thread change between a '£' symbol and the number '50'. When paper banknotes are held up to the light, there is a bright denomination at the top of the Queen's portrait in the watermark.

    Some security features are common across all current Bank of England banknotes. On the front of any of the notes, you can feel raised print. For example, on the words 'Bank of England' and in the bottom right corner. Under a good quality ultraviolet light, the numerical value appears in bright red and green on the front of the notes, against a duller background.

    The Bank of England banknotes

What do I do if I get a counterfeit banknote?

Counterfeit banknotes are rare and also worthless. 

We cannot reimburse you for counterfeit banknotes. If you suspect that you have a counterfeit banknote, please take it to your nearest police station. The police should fill out an NCO-1 form and provide you with a receipt and incident number. The suspect notes will be sent to the National Crime Agency and if counterfeit to the Bank of England for further examination.

If you have information about someone making, selling or using counterfeit banknotes, please contact the police or phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Counterfeiting directly funds organised crime. It hurts the UK economy by creating losses for businesses, which ultimately affects the cost of things that we buy. It also affects the pocket of anyone who receives a counterfeit note, as they are worthless. If you report counterfeiting to the police, you are helping with investigations and alerting them to a problem in their area. This means that they can take action to protect your community.

  • If you are a retailer or business that handles cash, then you could be a target for counterfeiters looking to pass their notes.

    And, if you aren't routinely checking the notes you receive, the risk of getting caught out by these criminals only increases. 

    Counterfeits make up only a very small fraction of Bank of England banknotes in circulation.  But as businesses, you and your staff need to be vigilant against them.

    Counterfeiting directly funds organised crime, and it doesn't just hurt the businesses targeted, it also damages your community. The notes themselves are worthless. If you accept one unknowingly or otherwise, you or your business will be out of pocket and it could impact your customers.

    Fortunately all Bank of England banknotes have a series of security features built into their design. These features will help you identify whether the notes are genuine.

    Because these features can be checked quickly, they won't slow you down. The more aware you and your employees are of these security features, and the more of them you check at point-of-sale, the less likely you will be to fall victim to counterfeits. With the right training, you can easily check these security features. So what do you do if you think you've been handed a counterfeit note? You can't ignore it. Knowingly holding on to or passing counterfeit notes is illegal, and it could damage your reputation if one of your customers or suppliers realises you've given them a counterfeit banknote.

    “I’m sorry, I think this is the counterfeit note”.

    You should understand your company policy and know what to say to customers.

    “I'm afraid I'm going to have to take this and ask for another form of payment”.

    If the note turns out to be genuine, the customer will get their money back. Fill in a counterfeit receipt and send the banknote to the Bank of England, either directly or via your own bank.

    However if you feel at risk, give the note back to the customer and ask for another form of payment. If you suspect the customer is purposefully trying to pass a counterfeit note, call the police, and if you have kept the note hand it over to them.

    Confidence comes with experience and good training.

    The more these checks become routine, the less risk there is of getting caught out.

    For more information, or to download our free training materials, go to the banknote section on the Bank of England website.

    You work hard, don't let counterfeits be a cost to your business, your customers or your reputation.

This page was last updated 09 July 2020
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