Old paper £20 and £50 banknotes soon to be withdrawn, but there is no need to panic as they can be exchanged for years to come
Old paper £20 and £50 banknotes are soon to be withdrawn, but there is no need to panic as they can be exchanged for years to come.
Although the notes will no longer be accepted in shops as legal tender after the end of September, it will be possible to exchange or deposit them at high street banks and major post offices. The Bank of England will also exchange the paper notes for new-style ones – even decades down the line.
The demise of the old notes is a result of the Bank of England’s decision to replace them with polymer-based banknotes that are harder to forge and made of more durable material. There are 300million £20 paper notes still in circulation with an image of economist Adam Smith on one side – and a further 160million £50 banknotes adorned with the faces of engineers Matthew Boulton and James Watt.
Cash cut: The old paper note, top, and the new polymer one, above
The replacement polymer £20 note was introduced in February 2020 and features the artist JMW Turner – while the newer £50 note has an image of scientist Alan Turing, famous for cracking the Enigma code in the Second World War. Sarah John, chief cashier at the Bank of England, says: ‘The majority of the old notes have now been taken out of circulation. Now might be a good time to spend the old money while you can – but if you still find some old banknotes later on, you will still be able to exchange them.’
Paper notes found after September can be deposited in a customer’s bank or savings account at a high street branch or via the post office.
Alternatively, they can be exchanged for new polymer notes. Holders of the old notes can also ask the Bank of England to exchange them.
The move to polymer notes began in 2016 when a new £5 note featuring politician and wartime leader Winston Churchill was introduced.
This replaced the paper £5 note with prison reformer Elizabeth Fry on one side – it stopped being legal tender in 2017.
The new £10 note, with novelist Jane Austen on one side, was introduced in 2017 to replace the Charles Darwin tenner that was withdrawn a year later.
The Bank of England will exchange all old bank notes by post – as well as accidentally torn or damaged notes.
For more details, visit bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes.
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