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 two sets of banknotes in circulation – Series 6 and the new Series 7. Both series are legal render. Both sets have five denominations: the $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 banknote.

Series 7 $5 and $10 banknotes were released in October 2015 and the remaining three denominations were released in May 2016.

Series 7 (Brighter Money)

Series 7 banknotes

Series 6

Series 6 banknotes

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.
  • The unique texture of polymer banknotes makes them harder to counterfeit.
  • 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

Polymer banknotes are very durable and easy to use. This factsheet includes some basic tips on how to handle banknotes (PDF 344KB).

How to spot a counterfeit

Information on how to tell if a note is genuine can be found in our How to spot a counterfeit guide (PDF 1MB).

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 generally incorporates three stages:

  1. Selecting and integrating security features
  2. Design
  3. Printing

Selecting and integrating security features

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

The Series 7 banknotes incorporate more sophisticated and modern security features. These include:

  • A larger window featuring a detailed metallic foil element;
  • A native bird icon which changes colour as the note is tilted, and a bar can be seen moving through the shape;
  • A small ‘puzzle number’ lines up when the note is held up to the light; and
  • Raised ink used on the large denomination number.

Other security features include:

  • micro-printing
  • intricate background patterns
  • fluorescent feature

For a full list of public security features for both Series 6 and Series 7 banknotes, please refer to Security features of New Zealand’s banknotes.

How to spot a counterfeit (PDF 1MB) has information on how to tell if a note is genuine.

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 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, images, cultural motifs, security features, serial numbers and colours.

Once these features are agreed upon, the 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.

A Reserve Bank Bulletin article was written to document the design process for the Series 7 banknotes and provides more detailed information.

Further information on the history of banknotes in New Zealand is explained in The history of banknotes in New Zealand page.

Printing

New Zealand’s new Series 7 banknotes are printed by Canadian Bank Note Company in Ottawa, Canada. Series 6 polymer banknotes were produced by Note Print Australia Limited in Melbourne. Both sets of notes have been printed on the same polymer substrate. Banknotes are manufactured as described in the following steps:

  • Substrate:Initially, the substrate is a large roll of clear plastic film. Pigmented ink is applied to each side of the film to provide the base for the printed designs, apart from an area that is deliberately left clear, forming the window. The roll 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 holographic foil and the native bird icons are also applied at this stage before the sheets are 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.
  • Over-coating: The notes are treated with a protective varnish. This makes them more durable and helps to keep them clean for 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.