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Banknote recirculation by credit institutions and other cash handlers

The ECB and the national central banks (NCBs) of the Eurosystem are the issuing authorities for euro banknotes and are tasked with maintaining public trust in the single currency. This is done by, among other things, ensuring the integrity of the euro banknotes in circulation.

The possibility of recirculating euro banknotes enables credit institutions and other cash handlers to perform their role in the currency supply chain in a more effective and cost-efficient manner. To ensure the integrity of the euro banknotes, on 16 September 2010 the Governing Council of the ECB adopted Decision ECB/2010/14 on the authenticity and fitness checking and recirculation of euro banknotes, which came into effect on 1 January 2011.

The adoption of a legal act came about because of the amendment in 20081 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1338/20012, including:

  • a direct reference in Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001 to “procedures defined by the ECB” in respect of the obligation for the addressees of Article 6(1), referred to as “cash handlers” in Decision ECB/2010/14, to ensure that euro banknotes “which they have received and which they intend to put back into circulation are checked for authenticity and that counterfeits are detected”;
  • the broadening of the addressees of Article 6 to cover other economic agents (e.g. traders and casinos engaged in the processing and distribution to the public of banknotes via cash dispensers) and transporters of funds.

Decision ECB/2010/14 establishes the procedures referred to in Article 6(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001, with which cash handlers have to comply when checking euro banknotes for authenticity and fitness. It was amended by Decision ECB/2012/19 of 7 September 2012 to extend its scope to the authenticity and fitness checking and recirculation of new series of euro banknotes and to clarify a few requirements, and by Decision ECB/2019/39 of 5 December 2019 to allow the reprocessing of banknotes not clearly authenticated and to introduce a new category of banknote handling machine.

Decision ECB/2010/14 ensures that credit institutions and cash handlers only recirculate euro banknotes if they have been checked for both fitness and authenticity. These checks can be carried out either: (i) by a type of banknote handling machine which has been tested by a Eurosystem NCB; or (ii) by trained staff. Banknotes that have successfully passed machine checks can be reissued via automated teller machines or other customer-operated machines. Banknotes which have been tested by trained staff can only be disbursed over the counter.

It is important to note that euro coins are not affected by Decision ECB/2010/14, as they do not fall within the ECB’s competence.

1 Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2009 of 18 December 2008 amending Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001 laying down measures necessary for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting (OJ L 17, 22.1.2009, p. 1).
2 OJ L 181, 4.7.2001, p. 6.

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