Invalid bills in wallets: how to recognize a banknote that shops may no longer accept?


Look in your wallet; you may find notes that have been invalid since the middle of last year. Tens of millions of them are still in circulation. They may no longer be accepted by the shop when you pay. How do you tell an old banknote design from a new one? 

“At the end of June last year, the older designs of the 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 2000 koruna banknotes from 1995 to 1999 expired,” says Czech National Bank (ČNB) spokeswoman Denisa Všetíčková. New designs have replaced them. The exception is the five-thousand Czech banknotes, which are still valid and unaffected by the exchange.

The more modern security features are intended to prevent the counterfeiting of banknotes and, at the same time, simplify the verification of their authenticity. But how can you tell if you have invalid money in your wallet or savings piggy bank?

The new stripe changes color

“The banknotes that the ČNB is withdrawing from circulation differ mainly in the width of the silver stripe that crosses the banknote from top to bottom. In the older designs, the stripe is narrow and does not change color when tilted. Whereas on the new designs, the stripe is wider and changes color from brownish-purple to green when tilted against the light,” Všetíčková explains what to look out for when checking.

In addition to the vertical stripes, you can also examine other features. “If you look against the light, you can see a watermark on the left, the numeral 100, and a stylized royal apple, which you don’t see on a narrow-stripe banknote.”

The designs also differ from each other in the year depicted on the face of the note. The current plans show the year with two at the beginning; in the case of the 100 crowns, it is 2018.

Some will not return

Over 46 million invalid banknotes are in circulation, worth more than CZK 15 billion. “The most frequent among them are banknotes in CZK 100 and CZK 200. However, this number is also distorted by the fact that tourists often take them abroad,” Všetíčková adds. The ČNB is therefore counting on the fact that some of the money will not be returned to it.

And what if you pay with old-style banknotes in a shop? The seller may or may not accept them from you.

“Merchants are legally entitled to refuse payment with invalid banknotes, i.e., those with a narrow silver stripe. However, suppose they decide of their own accord to allow this payment. In that case, they are not allowed to put them back into circulation, i.e., to return the invalid banknotes to the customer when paying,” the ČNB spokesperson clarifies.

If you find payment notes with the old design in your wallet, it is possible to have them replaced, a piece for piece, without a fee.

“This can be done at branches of all banks with cash desks or deposit-taking ATMs. This exchange will end in June 2024, and after that, it will only be possible in ČNB branches,” concludes Všetíčková.