Using the euro
The Central Bank of Ireland is responsible for providing euro banknotes and coins to strict quality standards that have been established for the Eurosystem.
This document covers information on the security features of euro bank notes and coins – and what to do if you suspect you have counterfeit currency.
The Central Bank website also has answers to frequently asked questions about using the euro in Ireland.
There are seven different euro banknotes: €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5. All euro banknotes include some high-tech security features. If you are not sure whether a bank note is genuine, you should always check several features. If in doubt, compare the banknote with one you know to be genuine.
The European Central Bank (ECB) suggests that you carry out three checks on euro bank notes:
- How they feel
- How they look
- What you see if you tilt them
- Paper: All euro banknotes are printed on pure cotton paper, which feels crisp and firm (not limp or waxy).
- Raised print: Special printing makes the ink feel raised or thicker in the main image, the lettering and the value numerals on the front of the banknotes. To feel the raised print, run your finger over it or scratch it gently with your fingernail.
- Additional tactile marks for the visually impaired are included on the bottom edge of the €200 banknote and on the right-hand edge of the €500.
- Watermarks: All euro banknotes contain a watermark that is visible when held up to the light. This watermark shows a picture and displays the value of the banknote.
- Security thread: The security thread is embedded in the banknote paper. If you hold the banknote against the light, the thread will appear as a dark stripe. The word ‘EURO’ and the value can be seen in tiny letters on the stripe.
- Perforations: Hold the banknote against the light. In the hologram you will see perforations which form the € symbol. You can also see small numbers showing the value.
- Holograms and colour-changing numbers: Low-value notes (5, 10 and 20 euro) have a hologram foil stripe on the front. Higher-value notes (50, 100, 200 and 500 euro) have a hologram patch on the front and a colour-changing number on the back.
- When you tilt a low-value note, the euro symbol and the value of the banknote appear on a glossy stripe on the back. When the banknote is tilted under a bright light, the stripe shines and slightly changes colour.
- When you tilt the front of a high-value note, an image of the architectural motif and the value of the banknote appear. When you tilt the back of the banknote, the value numerals change colour from purple to olive green or brown.
Additional security features
On some areas of the banknote, you can see tiny writing. For example, inside the ‘EYPΩ’ (euro in Greek characters) on the front. You will need a magnifying glass to see it. The microprinting is sharp (not blurred).
Check with an ultraviolet lamp
Under UV light:
- The paper itself does not glow.
- Fibres embedded in the paper appear, coloured red, blue and green.
- The flag of the European Union looks green and has orange stars.
- The signature of the ECB President turns green.
- The large stars and small circles on the front glow. The map, bridge and value numeral on the back appear in yellow.
You can view images of genuine bank notes and explore interactive displays of security features on the European Central Bank website.
There are eight different euro coins (1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent or 1, 2 euro coins). One euro is worth 100 cent. The coins vary in size, colour and thickness according to their values.
Euro bank notes from all EU member countries look exactly the same. However, coins differ. Although all euro coins have a common ‘European’ side, they also have a ‘national’ side. The European side features designs common to all euro countries, showing various maps of Europe surrounded by the 12 stars of the European Union. The reverse side of each coin shows an individual design relating to each member state. The Irish national side depicts the harp. All euro coins are legal tender throughout the euro area, irrespective of which national side the coins have.
The edge of each coin has been milled (specially marked), which makes it easier to recognise different values. This is very important for people with visual impairments. Special bi-metal technology is incorporated into the larger 1 and 2 euro coins to prevent counterfeiting.
Counterfeit notes and coins
It is a criminal offence to keep or pass on a banknote which you believe or know is a counterfeit. You should check your change regularly for suspect notes and coins.
What should I do if I suspect a bank note or coin is counterfeit?
If you believe you are in possession of a counterfeit, you must take or send it to your local financial institution (for example, your bank), the Gardaí, or the Central Bank National Analysis Centre/Coin National Analysis Centre (NAC/CNAC). Please include your details along with details of the suspect counterfeit and anything you know about where it came from.
Financial institutions must by law retain suspect counterfeit notes or coin and submit them to the Central Bank NAC/CNAC. You can also contact the National Analysis Centre online.
If you submit a suspect note or coin to your local financial institution, you should get a receipt to confirm your submission. No refund will be given at this time. If the banknote or coin is deemed genuine, your bank will give you the value of the note. If you send suspect notes or coins to NAC or CNAC, you will receive a letter acknowledging the submission. If the notes or coins are deemed genuine, you will receive a replacement by post.
However, if the banknotes or coins are counterfeit you will get no refund.
What should I do at work if I am given a banknote I suspect to be fake?
The ECB recommends the following steps for people working in shops or places that deal with cash:
- Do not get into an argument with the customer.
- Tell them that you need to speak briefly to your supervisor or a security officer, but ensure that the customer can always see the banknote, to avoid any complaints.
- Get your supervisor or the security officer to speak to the customer.
- Make a mental note of the customer’s appearance.
- If at all possible, do not return the banknote to the customer.
- If the customer leaves by car, make a note of their number plate and type of car.
- Contact the Gardaí Siochana.
- Hand over the suspect banknote without delay to your supervisor or security officer for forwarding to the police.
- Do not try to be a hero – make sure you are safe at all times.