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Polymer used on banknotes

New Zealand banknotes are printed on polymer, which is a type of polypropylene plastic. This page has more information about the benefits of polymer and tips for handling polymer banknotes.

The benefits of polymer

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

Polymer banknotes have a number of advantages over paper banknotes:

  • the average polymer banknote lasts about four times as long as a paper note. This keeps the cost of producing banknotes down
  • polymer banknotes are stronger and non-porous, so they do not get as dirty as paper banknotes
  • the unique texture of polymer banknotes makes them harder to counterfeit.

Tips for handling polymer banknotes

Polymer banknotes are tough, but they still require some care when handling.


Polymer banknotes are water and oil resistant and can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.

Avoid heat

Polymer banknotes react to very hot temperatures and shrink or melt when ironed or exposed to open flames.

Don't staple them

Use paper bands when bundling banknotes. Do not staple or pin banknotes as the tiny holes can easily cause a banknote to tear.

Don't deface

Don’t write on banknotes. It is illegal to deface New Zealand currency.

Fan them out to count

When counting a bundle of new banknotes, fan them, tap them against a hard surface or shuffle them to ensure they don’t stick together.


Polymer banknotes are tough. It is very difficult to start a rip in a polymer banknote. However, once a tear is started, a polymer banknote will rip easily. Repair torn banknotes with tape and use them again. They will be removed from circulation when they are returned to us.

Avoid crumpling

Keep banknotes straight and flat. Avoid creasing, crumpling or folding banknotes. Flatten out creased banknotes by applying pressure or curling them in your hand. Never iron a banknote.

More information

Tips for handling polymer banknotes (PDF, 166 KB)