Save, make, understand money


£1.5bn worth of old paper £5 and £10 notes in circulation

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

An estimated £1.5bn worth of old paper £5 and £10 notes are yet to be returned to the Bank of England, exclusive figures for YourMoney.com reveal.

The Bank confirmed around 117 million paper £5 notes (£585m worth) and 86 million paper £10 notes (£860m worth) are still floating around as at 31 January 2020.

This includes unreturned Elizabeth Fry £5 and £10 Charles Darwin notes, as well as earlier paper denominations.

The new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill entered circulation in September 2016 with the old note losing its legal tender status in May 2017.

As at the end of January 2020, 226 million (£1.13bn worth) paper £5 notes had been returned to the Bank of England.

Banks and retailers started receiving new polymer £10 notes featuring author Jane Austen in September 2017 and the old notes came out of circulation in March 2018. The Bank confirmed it has received 705 million old £10 notes, more than £7bn worth.

It added that the number of paper £10 banknotes being returned is broadly in line with its expectations. However the return of the lower denominated £5 notes is below expectations. This may also be because they’ve been lost or damaged or simply because people want to keep the £5 notes as souvenirs.

New £20 notes in circulation

The new plastic £20 note featuring artist JMW Turner entered circulation last week, though it could be some time before it filters down into your change and cash withdrawals.

The Bank of England expects half of all cashpoints across the UK to be dispensing them two weeks after issue.

This means the old paper and new polymer £20 notes will be in circulation at the same time. But the paper £20 note featuring economist Adam Smith will be slowly withdrawn with consumers given at least six months’ notice before it loses its legal tender status.

As at 31 January 2020, there were over 1.8bn £20 notes in circulation, equating to a value of £37bn.

A new polymer £50 note featuring Alan Turing will be issued next year, replacing the paper version issued in November 2011 including entrepreneur Matthew Boulton and engineer James Watt.

Got old notes?

All genuine Bank of England banknotes that have been withdrawn from circulation retain their face value for all of time and can be exchanged over the counter in London. There is no fee for this service and there is no expiry on the period in which it will exchange old notes. Banknotes can also be exchanged by post.

Some banks and building societies may also accept these from their own customers, but they’re not obliged to do so.