Page last updated at 00:05 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Pets take a bite out of savings

Cash in a bin
Notes are sometimes damaged by the most unlikely means

Last year was when the financial crisis really started to bite.

But some pets have taken the situation literally - by chomping their way through a growing number of banknotes, Bank of England figures show.

It received 4,916 claims for a total of 113,000 in 2008 from people suggesting their money had been chewed or eaten - up 23% in value on the previous year.

Total claims for damaged or mutilated banknotes reached 34m, including torn, washed, stained and burnt money.

Filthy rich

The list of ways in which bank-notes can be damaged is "almost endless", according to the Bank of England.

Damaged bank-notes claims
Torn/part of a note: 19,235 (2.1m)
Chewed/eaten: 4,916 (113,134)
Washed: 2,529 (82,128)
Contaminated: 4,287 (30.6m)
Fire/flood damage: 1,451 (1m)
Total: 32,418 (33.9m)
Source: Bank of England
All 2008 figures

As well as money put through washing machines, or chewed by a pet, the Bank says that notes hidden for safe keeping are often overlooked.

These include burnt notes in ovens or microwaves, and damp or decayed currency hidden under floorboards or in the garden.

The most common claims for reimbursement in 2008 were torn notes or fragments of notes. Some 19,235 claims were made, a similar figure to 2007.

The issue leading to the highest value claims was contaminated, often dirty, notes at more than 30m. This was about 5m less than the average from the previous three years.

The total number of claims was down 2% on 2007, and the value was down 16% on 2007 - the year of serious flooding in the UK. Both were at their lowest levels since 2005.

Claims team

Claims are checked by a specialist full-time team of four or five Bank staff based in Leeds.

Within a few days of receiving it, the team takes a look at each reimbursement application and the remains of the bank-note.

Generally they look for evidence of at least half of the note, paying particular attention to the chief cashier's signature and the clause stating that "I promise to pay the bearer...".

They also look for evidence of both prints of the serial number and letters, to ensure they do not pay out twice on the same note.

Anyone wishing to make a claim should download a form from the Bank of England website.

Scottish, Northern Irish, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or any foreign notes need to be sent to the appropriate issuing authority, but the same basic rules apply.

The use of notes and coins is expected to drop in the UK in the coming years, with non-cash methods of payment predicted to be used more frequently than cash by 2015.

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