Euro banknotes have to be genuine and of high quality if people are to have confidence in them. 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. These machines sort the notes to maintain high standards of quality. In 2010, the NCBs categorised some 5.8 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 you present more than half of the note or can prove that the missing (larger) part of the banknote has been destroyed. Intentionally mutilated or damaged euro banknotes are not redeemed.
In principle, the redemption 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,
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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,