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Millions of dollars for Aussies claiming on damaged cash. How to get payout without whole banknote

Australians claimed back $14.3 million worth of cash from the Reserve Bank of Australia in the last year. Here's how you can too.

You can still get a full $10 for a note that’s torn if one requirement is met, and thousands of Aussies have cashed in on millions of dollars worth of damaged banknotes in the past year.

If you have a ripped note, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will pay out a portion of what is remaining unless you have more than 80 per cent of the total note, like the one pictured here.You can get the full $10 for this. However, the policy is also true on the flipside, with those who have less than 20 per cent of the note unable to claim anything back, under the incomplete note policy.

It’s not likely local businesses will accept damaged currency but Aussies are still cashing in. The damaged banknotes facility processed about 8,900 claims in the 2022/2023 financial year and paid out $14.3 million, the RBA told Yahoo Finance.

So, how can you claim back money on a damaged note? And, aside from the size, are there any reasons you would be rejected? Here’s everything you need to know, including some of the tricky requirements and legal reasons for pushback.

A $10 note with less than 20 per cent missing, which can be claimed back for exactly what the money is worth.
Money is in short supply for many Aussies, with thousands of claims being made for damaged notes. (Credit: Reddit)

Do you have a money story? Contact belinda.grantgeary@yahooinc.com

How can you claim back cash for a damaged banknote?

The RBA allows claims on incomplete, badly damaged or contaminated bank notes when a person has “unwittingly come into possession” of them.

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It could be hard to prove but it is actually illegal under the Crimes (Currency) Act 1981 to intentionally deface, disfigure, mutilate or destroy Aussie bank notes without the consent of the treasurer, people authorised by them or certain RBA staff.

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If you’re feeling the cost-of-living pinch, it’s not recommended you go searching for broken notes in the rubbish - they’re not eligible if they’re found in landfill or recycling plants, or if they’ve been bought or sold.

To make your claim, you need to put the note in a sealed bag with details of the “contaminant written on the outside” and a signed claim form. This can be submitted to your financial institution who will forward it to the National Banknote Site (NBS) for assessment.

If you’ve found the note, the bank actually stipulates you need to take “reasonable steps” to contact the person who may own the notes, which can include reporting it to the police and seeing if anyone claims it or checking with the owner of the property you found it on.

If the RBA is suss on your claim, they can ask for more information about you, the source of the damage or where you got them from.

Banknotes being washed and assessed at the Damaged Banknotes Laboratory.
Banknotes are assessed at the Damaged Banknotes Laboratory. (Credit: Reserve Bank of Australia)

You can be rejected based on the above or if they think you’ve breached these reasons:

  • Unexplained absence of security features

  • Contamination is considered deliberate

  • You haven’t tried to reasonably find the owner of the note

  • Processing the note would put staff at an “unacceptable health or safety risk”

  • The bank determines there’s “no value payable”

Heat damage of more than 20 per cent or that prevents verification of security features, contamination from blood or chemicals, or blemishes that “cast doubt on value or genuineness” can mean the note is considered badly damaged or unfit and may be rejected at the bank’s discretion.

Money graphic from the Reserve Bank of Australia explaining different types of damage that can be done to bank notes.
Money can be claimed back but will need to be assessed by the Reserve Bank of Australia. (Credit: Reserve Bank of Australia)

Want to know what percentage you can get paid out? Check out the RBA’s grids here, or the rest of the claim requirements here.

It’s a free service but, in time-consuming “exceptional cases”, the bank may ask for reimbursement for the cost of assessment. The timeframe for getting the money can vary depending on the claim.

Sad reason behind spike in damaged banknote claims

“Around 130 claims, worth around $9.6 million, involved banknotes that were damaged during the flooding events that occurred in eastern Australia in 2022,” the RBA said.

“These were mainly received from businesses and financial institutions. The duration and widespread devastation of the floods meant the bank continued to receive claims several months after the events. To date, the bank has paid a total of $18.7 million for more than 200 claims.

In the 2018/19 financial year, there were 15,009 claims and $4.2 million in payments made, before a drop-off in the bank’s next reporting period - 11,500 claims and $3.4 million paid out.

There was a backlog that carried over into the 2020/21 period from the bushfires. Of the 11,600 claims and $5 million in payments, 20 claims worth around $234,000 were linked to the fires.

How much can I get paid out for incomplete bank notes?

  • Less than 20 per cent missing: Full Face value

  • Between 20 and 80 per cent missing: Value in proportion of what’s remaining eg. $5 for half a $10 note

  • If more than 80 per cent missing: Zero paid

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