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Staggering £10bn worth of old paper £20 and £50 notes unbanked

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

More than £10bn worth of old paper £20 and £50 notes were yet to be returned to the Bank of England by the September 2022 deadline. Raid your piggy banks and check those drawers for an easy cash win in 2023.

There were still 242 million individual £20 banknotes featuring economist Adam Smith in circulation on the eve of the deadline to spend or swap them.

That’s a staggering £4.8bn worth of these paper notes which were unbanked by 30 September 2022 – the last day to spend or swap them for polymer notes before they lost their legal tender status.

Meanwhile, Brits were also hoarding old paper £50 notes as exclusive Bank of England figures for revealed £5.2bn worth were unaccounted for.

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

As such, as at 30 September 2022, there was over £10bn of old £20 and £50 notes still in circulation, with 348 million of these not being returned to the Bank.

Brits cash in and cash out

While millions of these individual notes worth billions of pounds are still out there, Bank of England figures revealed £1bn worth of old paper £20 and £50 notes were spent or swapped in the days leading up to the 30 September deadline.

Just five days before they lost their legal tender, an estimated £11bn worth remained in circulation.

The table below reveals the number and value of Bank of England paper £20 and £50 notes which have been returned and those which are still in circulation as at 30 September 2022:


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.

In total, there are approximately 4.7 billion Bank of England notes in circulation, worth about £82bn.

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 account.

The Post Office may accept withdrawn notes as a deposit into any bank account accessed via them, and you may be able to exchange certain withdrawn paper banknotes for polymer notes at a limited number of Post Office branches, though it has a £300 limit.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