Advice for retailers and businesses

Check notes at point of sale

Counterfeit notes are rare, but it pays to be careful as they are worthless. 

Counterfeiters target businesses where they know that banknotes aren’t being checked properly. People trying to use counterfeit banknotes will often try to buy a low-value item using a high-value note such as a £20 note. This is so that they can get away with your stock and money from your till.

So we advise you to check notes at the point of sale. Checking banknotes is quick and easy. Find out how to check your banknotes.

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Use our free training materials

Our comprehensive range of banknote training materials show best practice for checking King Charles III and Queen Elizabeth II banknotes.  They are available in different formats, so you can choose which works best for you.

Watch our training film

This short film covers the key security features on all our current banknotes. 

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  • The Bank of England banknotes.

    There are two versions of the banknotes in circulation. One version featuring a portrait of King Charles III and one version featuring a portrait of Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. 

    There are four denominations of the banknotes in circulation: £5, £10, £20 and £50.

    All four denominations of notes are printed on polymer.

    The security features are the same on both the King Charles III and Queen Elizabeth II notes.

    This film will run through a number of those key security features found on all the notes. You should check these features to ensure notes are genuine.

    There is a large see-through window. 

    A clearly defined portrait of either King Charles III or Queen Elizabeth II the Queen is printed on the window with the numerical value of the note and the words ‘Bank of England’ printed twice around the edge.

    A metallic image is positioned over the window.  

    The foil is gold on the front of the £5 and £10 notes; gold and blue on the front of the £20 note; and gold and green on the front of the £50 note. The foil is silver on the back of all notes.

    On the £20 and £50 notes there is a second, smaller window in the bottom corner of the note.

    Below the main see-through window on the front of all the notes, there is a silver foil patch containing a hologram. When you tilt the note from side to side, the words change between the value of the note and ‘Pounds’.

    A 3D image of the coronation crown appears above the main see-through window.  

    On the back of the notes, directly behind the silver crown on the front, there is a metallic, foil patch.

    The foil is green on the £5 note, copper on the £10 note, purple on the £20 note and red on the £50 note.

    On the front of the notes, you can feel raised print.  For example, on the words ‘Bank of England’ and in the bottom right corner.

    Under a good quality ultra-violet light, the numerical value appears in bright red and green on the front of the notes, against a duller background.

    The Bank of England banknotes.

Use our online banknote training

Our free online training highlights the security and design features of our banknotes and includes a short test. It takes about 30 minutes to complete.

Start banknote training

What to do if you get a counterfeit note

Make sure your staff know what to do if they suspect a note is counterfeit (fake), by having a clear company policy. The best approach is to follow these steps:

Diagram of guidelines on what to do if you get a counterfeit note

If there is insufficient information to pursue an investigation or the circumstances are not suspicious then please return the notes to the Bank of England using one of these forms.

If notes are being sent directly in the post to the Bank of England by you, then use the Individual form.

If notes are being sent via a cash centre or a business head office and then to the Bank of England, then use the Business form.

Using UV lamps, detector pens and authentication machines

Ultraviolet (UV) lamps

A UV lamp which emits light at around 365 nanometres is ideal for checking the fluorescent features on all our notes. We do not advise using LED (Light Emitting Diode) devices, such as key-fob style detectors because these often emit light above 365 nanometres.  Some counterfeiters do attempt to copy UV features, so make sure your staff know exactly what to look for, such as the colours we use in the UV numbers.

Detector pens

Detector pens should not be used because they don’t spot counterfeits printed on polymer.

Using banknote authentication machines

If you use a machine to check banknotes, make sure it can spot the latest counterfeit notes. Our machine-testing framework enables manufacturers to test their machines with counterfeit banknotes to ensure they only accept genuine banknotes. We publish a list of models and software versions that meet our standards.  Businesses can use it to make informed choices about the equipment they use.

This page was last updated 14 June 2024