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£11bn worth of ‘old’ £20 and £50 notes floating around: Use them now

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

There are just five days left to spend or swap paper £20 and £50 notes before they lose their legal tender status.

‘Old’ paper notes will be withdrawn from circulation after 30 September 2022 so you will no longer be able to spend them.

Up until then, both the new polymer (plastic) and paper £20 and £50 notes can be used, but shoppers are encouraged to spend, swap or deposit them at banks or the Post Office.

The Bank of England (BoE) said while the majority of paper £20 and £50 banknotes in circulation have been replaced with new polymer versions, there are still over £5bn worth of paper £20 notes featuring the economist Adam Smith. Meanwhile, Brits are sitting on nearly £6bn worth of paper £50 banknotes featuring the engineers Boulton and Watt.

That’s more than 250 million individual £20 banknotes, and more than 110 million paper £50 banknotes.

Paper £20 notes started to be withdrawn from circulation in February 2020, when the polymer £20 featuring artist J.M.W. Turner entered circulation.

Meanwhile, paper £50 notes started to be withdrawn in June 2021, when the polymer £50 note featuring mathematician Alan Turing entered circulation.

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

What happens after 30 September 2022?

After 30 September, paper notes can be deposited into customer bank accounts. Some Post Offices may also accept withdrawn notes as payment for goods and services or as a deposit to an account accessed via them.

You may be able to exchange certain withdrawn paper banknotes for polymer notes at a limited number of Post Office branches.

The BoE will continue to exchange all withdrawn notes. You can attend in person at the premises in London or send by post (at your own risk) to: Dept NEX, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH.

What about Scottish and Irish notes?

The BoE confirmed paper £20 and £50 notes issued by Clydesdale Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland will also be withdrawn after 30 September 2022, and these issuing authorities have advised retailers and the public to spend or deposit these notes by that date as well.

The paper £20 notes issued by Bank of Ireland (UK) plc, AIB Group (UK) plc, Northern Bank Limited (trades as Danske Bank), and National Westminster Bank plc (trades as Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland) will also be withdrawn after 30 September 2022, and retailers and the public are also urged to spend or deposit these notes ahead of the deadline.

The Queen’s image on bank notes

Following the passing of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II, many questioned what this would mean for notes featuring her portrait.

The BoE said the Queen was the first monarch to feature on its banknotes and said “the Queen’s iconic portraits are synonymous with some of the most important work we do”.

It confirmed current banknotes featuring the royal will continue to be legal tender, but added that a further announcement regarding existing BoE banknotes will be made once the period of mourning has been observed.