How to Tell if a Bank Note Is Fake - Euros, American Dollars and British Pound

By Rebecca Doughty . Updated: January 20, 2017
How to Tell if a Bank Note Is Fake - Euros, American Dollars and British Pound

This year you might be traveling to Europe or America for a holiday, and if you've never been before then it's likely you're unfamiliar with the money used there. Would you know if you'd been handed a fake banknote? Well, if you ever find yourself in possession of a banknote and you're unsure of its authenticity, it's always best to get it checked out. It's actually illegal to possess or use counterfeit money in the UK, Europe and United States, so taking the precautions over money that you feel unsure of is always for the best! You can take money into any bank to have them check the value of your money, but there are also ways that you can check for counterfeit money yourself. So in this OneHowTo article, we're going to give you some tips on how to tell if a banknote is to fake - Euros, British Pounds and American Dollars.

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General considerations

The first thing to look out for in order to know if a bank note is fake, no matter the currency, is the texture of the notes. All authentic banknotes are made from cotton and linen fibers, so you may be able to tell just from the touch of the paper if a banknote is counterfeit.

Authentic banknotes often feel crisp to touch whereas fake banknotes often feel waxy, as though a coating has been applied to standard paper.


There are seven different bank notes in the Euro currency, all of which are different sizes. On each of these notes are several security features designed for the public to be able to decipher a fake Euro banknote.

  • Check the water mark first. When held up to the light, the watermark will become visible on the left side of the bank note. The image will replicate the architectural image that is in the bill (each is image is different depending on the denomination).
  • On a real Euro banknote, the watermark will vary from dark to light, whereas on a fake, the watermark is printed directly on to the paper and the image is not usually clear.
  • On authentic Euro banknotes there will be a hologram. When you look at the note from various angles, the hologram will change the way the image looks. Fake Euros will not have a hologram but just a printed image which will always stay the same.
  • On real Euros there will also be a black line embedded down the centre of the note, this is the security thread. If you inspect this carefully you will see tiny lettering, or 'micro print' which will include the denomination of the note and the € symbol. On a fake note you will be able to see that this black line is merely printed onto the paper and does not contain any of the micro print information.
How to Tell if a Bank Note Is Fake - Euros, American Dollars and British Pound - Euros

British Pound

There are four denominations given in British banknotes, £5, £10, £20 and £50. These notes increase in size as the denominations get bigger.

British banknotes such as the five pound note are circulating in both the old paper notes and also the new polymer note. This can be a little confusing, however there are several ways of checking if your British banknote is a fake. These security tips will be the same whether it is the old or new style note you possess.

  • On a real British banknote, if you run your fingers carefully across the front of the banknote you should feel feel raised print where it reads 'Bank of England'.
  • British banknotes also hold a watermark. On all denominations, if you hold the note up to the light there should be an image of the Queen of England in the clear oval in the center of the note.
  • When looking for the watermark on both the £20 and £50 notes, the number 20 or 50 depending on the note should also appear in this oval.
  • All of the notes should feature a metallic thread running down the middle of the note, this is the security thread. This may look like silver dashes but when held up to the light should appear as a dark line.
How to Tell if a Bank Note Is Fake - Euros, American Dollars and British Pound - British Pound

American dollars

As with the previous banknotes, US dollars have several security features to help determine if they are fakes. Counterfeit dollars will occasionally have one or even two of these features but will rarely have them all. So checking each of them is recommended!

  • Firstly check for the color changing ink on the note denomination in the right hand corner. Whether it's a $5 or a $50, the color of this ink should go from a copper color to a green, depending on the angle from which you look at it.
  • Authentic US dollars will have raised printing so running your fingernail along the front of the note you should feel a slight ridge where it is raised. Also looking for blurry borders and images on the note is a good idea as many fake banknotes will be unable to get such a clean, clear print.
  • Again, check for the watermark on real US dollars which is a face on the right hand corner. This will usually be a replica of the face on the banknote itself. This watermark should only be visible when held up to the light, however if it is visible no matter the position of the note it could be a fake.
  • When holding the banknote up to the light, you should also look for the security thread. This will run vertically along the side of the note, and will have USA in micro print along the thread. The security thread runs along the right hand side on $5 and $10 notes, in the middle for $10 notes and along the left side for $20 and $100 notes.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Tell if a Bank Note Is Fake - Euros, American Dollars and British Pound, we recommend you visit our Economy & business category.

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