Can you still use old £20 and £50 notes? When the deadline for paper banknotes is and how to return them

Thousands of Britons are holding on to billions of pounds worth of old banknotes and coins which are on the verge of becoming obsolete, new research shows.

The old-style of physical bank notes, made from paper and not plastic, will no longer be usable from 30 September 2022, according to the Bank of England.

Once this deadline has passed, people will no longer be able to spend Bank of England paper notes in shops, or use them to pay businesses.

As of September, the Bank of England will swap these old notes for new polymer £20 notes featuring JMW Turner and polymer £50 notes featuring scientist and code-breaker Alan Turing. 

The Bank of England introduced the new polymer notes as a way of cutting down on fraud with the new design making them more difficult to counterfeit.

The notes are resistant to dirt and moisture and so remain in better condition for longer and also have tactile features that allow the blind and partially sighted to use them.

The new polymer £20 was first issued on 20 February 2020, and the polymer £50 note was first issued on 23 June 2021. These notes complete the Bank of England’s first polymer series. 

Despite the upcoming deadline, there are approximately £7bn worth of paper £20 and £10.5bn worth of paper £50 notes still in circulation.

This is equivalent to around 360 million paper £20 notes remain in circulation, while 209 million paper £50 notes are also still somewhere in the economy.

In total, the BoE confirmed there was 775 million paper banknotes remaining in circulation, following a Freedom of Information request.

Paper £10 and £5 banknotes have already been withdrawn but there are likely still to be some hidden away in drawers or old wallets.

Meanwhile, the Royal Mint said there are £105m worth of old one pound coins in circulation.

How to return old-style banknotes

Old-style £20 and £50 bank notes can be deposited with regular banks, which the Bank of England say is the quickest and simplest way to exchange them.

People with a UK bank account will still be able to deposit withdrawn notes into their account.

The Post Office may also accept withdrawn notes as payment for goods and services, or as a deposit into any bank account that can be accessed with them.

Old notes can also be exchanged by posting them to the Bank of England, although this raises the risk of loss or theft.

It’s possible to exchange banknotes in person there but this is likely to require a form to be completed and two original identity documents.

Sarah John, the Bank of England’s Chief Cashier, said: “We want to remind the public that from today they only have six months left to spend or deposit their paper £20 and £50 notes.

“Over the past few years we have been changing our banknotes from paper to polymer, because these designs are more difficult to counterfeit, whilst also being more durable.

“However if members of the public still have any of these paper notes in their possession, they should deposit or spend them whilst they can.”

How to return old-style pound coins

The round, old-style pound coin was demonetised in October 2017 and replaced with a 12-sided coin.

The new coin was released with a range of security features to protect it from sophisticated counterfeit operations.

This proved to be a prudent step as out of the 1.6 billion old-style coins that have been returned thus far, around 1.45 million were counterfeits.

A spokesperson for the the Royal Mint said: “The old-style coin can still be deposited at high street banks – but cannot be spent in shops.

“There is no deadline on returning coins.”

Some holders may be tempted to hold on to any old coins they find in the hope they rise in value.

Coins are the most popular collectable item in the UK, according to research from the organisation.

Over a third of collectors say coins are their biggest passion, followed by stamps and books, but the Royal Mint urged caution on this.

Rebecca Morgan, head of collector serviced at the Royal Mint, said occasional reports of coins selling for large amounts on the secondary market can often seem farfetched.

The spokesperson added: “In terms of the value of coins for collectors, there are several factors that influence a coin’s popularity – its mintage figure, design and history all play a part in determining ‘value’.

“For anyone interested in buying coins on the secondary market, we’d recommend they read our guide to getting a fair price for a coin on our website to ensure collectors have the right information and pay a fair price.”

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