Circulation of euro banknotes

From the moment they are manufactured from bales of cotton right up to their destruction by the central bank, banknotes follow a specific path through the economy: they are transported, distributed via ATMs, used to pay merchants, collected, sorted and – if not too worn - recirculated. Banknotes that are no longer fit for circulation are replaced with new ones. The average lifespan of a banknote is 3 years.

The banknote life cycle 



Euro banknotes are made of cotton and are manufactured at printing works located in the euro area. They are transported to the Banque de France for storage before being put into circulation. Commercial banks order the quantity of banknotes they need and collect them from Banque de France branches using cash-in-transit firms. They then distribute the notes to the general public either via their own branches or via automated teller machines (ATMs). Once in the customer’s wallet, banknotes are used day-to-day to purchase goods and services from retailers. The retailers in turn deposit the banknotes at their local bank branch, which sends them back to the Banque de France (via a cash-in-transit firm) to be sorted and put back into circulation.

Recirculation of banknotes by private operators

In 2006, a strict legal framework was introduced specifying the conditions under which private operators such as commercial banks and cash-in-transit companies can replenish ATMs with banknotes that have not been received from a central bank branch.

The length of the banknote cycle and average lifespan of a banknote

On average, a banknote will find its way back to a euro area central bank counter every six months.

The switch to euro banknotes and coins in January 2002

With the switch to euro banknotes and coins in January 2002, calculating the length of the banknote cycle and lifespan of notes at national level became irrelevant due to the migration of banknotes between different euro area countries.

Euro area banknotes last for an average of three years, but individual lifespans vary widely depending on the denomination, from around 1.5 years for the €10 note, to over 30 years for the €500. The €100, €200 and €500 last longer and are more resistant to wear and tear as they tend to be used more for hoarding purposes. The new Europa series of banknotes is designed to be longer-lasting than the previous series, as well as having enhanced security features to prevent counterfeiting. The new notes are being rolled out gradually over a number of years, and four denominations have already made their way into consumer’s wallets: the €5 (2 May 2013), the €10 (23 September 2014), the €20 (25 November 2015) and, most recently the €50 (4 April 2017).


Destruction and replacement of worn-out banknotes

Banknotes that have become too worn and dirty to be recirculated are destroyed by the Banque de France – the Bank is the only body authorised to do this in France. Unfit banknotes are replaced with new ones, which are distributed to commercial banks as part of their regular orders.

Lien: The Banque de France’s role as a wholesale supplier

Survey on the quality of euro banknotes in circulation

The European Central Bank (ECB) works closely with the euro area national central banks to ensure the banknotes in circulation are of the highest possible quality. Your feedback is important in helping us meet this target. Please take a few minutes to complete our online survey on the condition of the euro banknotes you use day-to-day. The results will help us to determine your needs and level of satisfaction when it comes to banknote quality.

Updated on: 06/07/2018 15:06