New Zealand's banknotes

The Reserve Bank is the sole supplier of New Zealand banknotes. We act as a wholesale distributor to the trading banks, and manage the design and manufacturing of the banknotes.

New Zealand has five denominations of banknotes in circulation: $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.

New $5 and $10 banknote have been released with the remaining denominations targeted for release in April 2016. For more information visit www.brightermoney.co.nz.

Series 7 banknotes

Brighter Money/Banknote Upgrade

New Zealand's banknotes are being upgraded to ensure they benefit from technical advances that have been introduced in banknote security. New notes will be introduced progressively from late 2015.

The Reserve Bank is not making significant changes to the overall design themes of the notes themselves. This includes continuing to use the five respected individuals and the fauna and flora currently depicted on our notes. For more information about the banknotes, and to see the designs, visit www.brightermoney.co.nz.

More information about the banknote upgrade project is available on the banknote upgrade page and in these questions and answers.

Polymer banknotes

New Zealand's banknotes are printed on polymer, which is a type of polypropylene plastic.

The Reserve Bank began circulating polymer banknotes in May 1999. Until then, New Zealand's banknotes were printed on paper made from cotton.

The advantages of polymer are:

  • The average polymer note lasts about four times as long as a paper note. This keeps the cost of producing money down.
  • Polymer notes are stronger and non-porous, so they do not get as dirty as paper.
  • It is easier to make a polymer note secure than a paper note, therefore deterring forgers.
  • Disposal of polymer notes is more environmentally friendly. Polymer notes are destroyed by being shredded. The shredded notes can be recycled into other plastic products instead of being buried or burnt.

How to handle polymer banknotes

How to handle polymer banknotes (PDF 289KB)

Polymer banknotes are very durable and easy to use. This factsheet includes some basic tips on how to handle banknotes.

Creating a banknote

The planning, printing and production of the New Zealand banknotes is a very complex business, employing many skilled professionals for many years before the banknotes are issued. The process can generally involve the following stages.

Selecting and integrating security features

Banknotes incorporate a range of security features to protect against counterfeiting, and new features are constantly being developed.

The current New Zealand banknotes contain a range of security features. There are two transparent windows – a transparent fern on the left-hand side of the note and an ovoid shape with the denomination of the note etched on the window on the right-hand side. These two windows make it very difficult to counterfeit the note.

Other security features include:

  • micro-printing
  • intricate background patterns
  • a see-through feature that will match exactly when viewed from either side of the note
  • fluorescent feature

New Zealand's new banknotes, to be released progressively from late 2015, will incorporate even more modern and complex security features. More information about these features will be made available closer to the time the notes are released.

How to spot a counterfeit PDF download


How to spot a counterfeit (PDF 278KB)

Information on how to tell if a note is genuine can be found in our: "How to spot a counterfeit" guide.

Design

Banknote design requires very specific technical knowledge in a range of areas, including aesthetics, printing techniques, security features and banknote equipment requirements.

The Reserve Bank makes initial decisions about the colour, wording and sizes of each denomination based on public surveys and expert advice.

Designers then draw up concept designs to incorporate the various features of the note, including the:

  • Text
  • Denomination
  • Pictures of people, birds, plants etc.
  • Cultural motifs such as tukutuku patterns
  • Security features
  • Serial numbering
  • Colours

Once these features are agreed upon, the selected designer produces a picture of the front and back of each denomination. These pictures are produced in the correct size and colours with the aid of a computer-based design system.

These banknote designs are assessed by a range of people, including security experts, banknote equipment manufacturers and design, history and cultural experts, to ensure they enhance security, are aesthetically pleasing and reflect New Zealand's culture and history.

The history and design of New Zealand's banknotes

Printing

New Zealand's current polymer banknotes were produced by Note Print Australia Limited in Melbourne. New Zealand's new banknotes will be printed by Canadian Banknote Company in Ottawa. Both sets will be printed on the same polymer. Banknotes are manufactured as described in the following steps:

  • Substrate: Initially, the substrate is a large roll of clear plastic film. Layers of white ink are applied to each side of the note, apart from an area that is deliberately left clear, forming the window. The toll of substrate is then cut into sheets for printing.
  • Printing: The images on the front and back are applied simultaneously via an offset printing process. The sheets are then passed to special printing machine, applying the raised ink. On the New Zealand banknotes, this raised ink is on the front (portrait) and back. Next, a letterpress adds the serial numbers.
  • Overcoating: The notes are treated with a protective varnish. This makes them more durable and helps to keep them clean longer. These complete sheets of notes are then inspected for faults.
  • Cutting: The printed sheets are cut into individual banknotes. After that, they are put through a quality inspection system for final inspection, counting and banding.