Millions of banknotes will soon be void: bank them while you can

After 30 September 2022, paper £20 and £50 notes will no longer be legal tender. Here’s what that means for the banknotes in your pocket.

The content of this article was relevant at the time of publishing. Circumstances change continuously and caution should therefore be exercised when relying upon any content contained within this article.

A person holding onto a fan of twenty pound notes

Image source: Getty Images.

The Bank of England has issued a reminder that after 30 September 2022, paper £20 and £50 notes will no longer be legal tender. Here’s what that means for the banknotes in your pocket.

Why are £20 and £50 banknotes being withdrawn?

The current paper £20s and £50s are being replaced by the new polymer versions.

Although there’s still a whopping £24 billion worth of paper £20 and £50 notes in use, the new plastic versions are already in circulation.

The new £20 note featuring artist JMW Turner was issued back in February 2020. The newer £50 note features Enigma code-cracker Alan Turing and only hit the high street in June 2021.

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Why are paper banknotes being replaced by polymer ones?

One of the main reasons is that polymer banknotes allow for newer, better security features, including the see-through window and holograms. 

Another reason is that (although plastic) polymer banknotes are better for the environment. Their carbon footprint is 16% lower than that of paper notes.

Polymer notes should also last around two and a half times longer than the paper versions. That said, the Bank of England does stress that the new notes are not indestructible. 

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What should you do with your old banknotes?

The Bank of England wants you to spend or deposit them by the end of September 2022. That gives you just shy of 12 months to get going.

If you don’t get round to spending them by the deadline, shops no longer have to accept them as payment for goods or services.

So, what happens if you find stragglers down the back of the sofa or stuffed in the pocket of your old jeans after the deadline? Well, the good news is that you won’t lose out on the cash value. You’ll have three options.

1. Deposit them into a UK bank account

This is probably the quickest and simplest way to get new banknotes in exchange for old ones.

2. Take them to a Post Office

Some branches may still accept withdrawn notes as payment. If not, you can deposit them into a bank account accessible through the Post Office.

3. Exchange them at the Bank of England

You can do this in person or by post. Either way involves a lot of effort.

To exchange your old £20 and £50 notes, you’ll need to download and fill out a banknote exchanges application form. You’ll also need to include a photo ID and proof of address.

If you fancy taking to them to the Bank of England in person, be prepared for a wait. The bank itself has warned that waiting times could be up to an hour. You’ll also face extra security measures, including a bag search. Liquids are not allowed inside the building and you can’t wear a helmet when you enter.

If all of that hasn’t put you off, then you can find a whole list of other precautions on the Bank of England website. The website also provides instructions for businesses that need to exchange old banknotes.

But all in all, it’s probably just easier to make sure you spend them by the end of September 2022.

However, if you prefer plastic cards to plastic notes and would rather tap to pay, take a look at these top-rated credit cards right now. 

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be considered so you should consider taking independent financial advice.

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