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EXCLUSIVE: Swap now as £10bn of old, paper £20 and £50 notes still in circulation

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More than £10bn worth of old, paper £20 and £50 notes were yet to be returned to the Bank of England by September’s deadline, exclusive figures for reveal.

More than £4.8bn worth of paper £20 notes were still in circulation on 30 September 2022 – the last day to spend or swap them for polymer notes before they lost their legal tender status.

That’s 242 million individual £20 banknotes featuring economist Adam Smith.

The exclusive Bank of England figures for also revealed there were still £5.2bn worth of paper £50 notes in circulation on or after the deadline.

This means 106 million individual old £50 banknotes featuring the engineers Boulton and Watt, were floating around.

As such, as at 30 September 2022, there was over £10bn of old £20 and £50 notes still in circulation, with nearly 350 million of these not being returned to the Bank.

However, these figures do show a fall from the £11bn worth of paper notes still in circulation five days before the 30 September deadline date.

In total, since the polymer £20 note featuring artist J.M.W. Turner was issued in February 2020, 1.6 billion old banknotes have been returned at a value of £32bn.

Meanwhile, 241 million £50 notes have been returned to the Bank since the plastic version featuring scientist Alan Turing was released in June 2021. Just over £12bn worth of these old notes have been returned to the Bank.

In total, £44bn worth of old £20 and £50 notes have been returned to the Bank since the polymer versions entered circulation.

The Bank of England said the number of banknotes returned to it “is broadly in-line” with its expectations.

All denominations – £5, £10, £20 and £50 are now printed on polymer which is more durable and harder to counterfeit.

What to do if you have an old, paper £20 or £50 note

Following the 30 September deadline to spend or swap old, paper notes, anyone with a £20 or £50 note can deposit them into their respective bank accounts.

The Post Office may accept withdrawn notes as a deposit into any bank account accessed via them, and you may be able to exchange certain withdrawn paper banknotes for polymer notes at a limited number of Post Office branches, though it has a £300 limit.

The BoE will continue to exchange all genuine withdrawn notes and said there is no expiry on the period in which it will exchange them.

You can attend in person at the premises in London between 9:30am to 3pm Monday to Friday. However, it warned it is experiencing “extremely high demand” so there may be long queues and waiting times. For those who arrive after midday, the Bank said it may possibly reach capacity, so you may not be served before it closes.

Be prepared for bag searches, and liquids, bikes, scooters and motor cycle or bike helmets are also not allowed in the building. If you’ve come with others, they’ll need to wait outside.

The Bank wrote: “Unless you require your banknotes immediately, we would suggest sending your banknotes via the post, however, given our volumes the wait time for your payment may be in excess of 30 days.

Here, banknotes can be sent to Dept NEX, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH.

You’ll need to complete a postal exchange form together with your notes and photocopies (not originals) of ID (one photo ID and one proof of address) for an exchange. This includes passport, driving licence, utility bill, bank statement, etc. You can see the full list on the Bank of England’s exchanging old banknotes page.

This is at your own risk so the Bank recommends taking “appropriate measures to insure against loss or theft”.

Money can then be paid into a bank account or cheque. It won’t send banknotes overseas but you can supply the BIC/SWIFT code and IBAN or account number for payments to overseas bank accounts.

If you have any questions, you can email the Bank on or phone 0203 461 5994 (Monday to Friday from 9am to 12pm).

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