Britons issued alert as old £20 notes set to become void – key steps to take next

Alan Turing: Codebreaker announced as new face on £50 note

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Paper notes in their current form have been a staple of currency across the UK for many decades, but in an essential update, the Bank of England has confirmed they will be totally phased out – and it is only a matter of time before this takes place completely. In recent years, paper notes have been removed as legal tender, and have been replaced by polymer alternatives. The newer notes have enhanced security features, as well as being higher quality and longer-lasting. It is hoped there will be a crackdown on fraud as a result of the change. But the older form of cash is definitely still commonplace, and many people will have these in their back pocket, stuffed into a drawer, or kept in a piggy bank at home. 

Now, the Bank of England is phasing out these notes, there will become a point where Britons will no longer be able to make use of them as legal tender. And the central bank has issued an important update on the matter to provide guidance to individuals.

On September 30, 2022, both paper £20 and £50 notes are set to become unusable in favour of their newer polymer alternatives. This will mean these are the last two notes to be phased out of paper as the UK leaves this form of money in its past.

The rollout of newer notes has been a slow and steady one which has taken place over a number of years. This has given Britons time to adjust to the new alternatives, and get their money in order to ensure it does not become out of date.

Paper £5 notes ceased to be legal tender in May 2017, while old £10 notes were phased out by March 2018. The Bank of England first released its new polymer £20 note on February, 20, 2020. It features the artist JMW Turner.

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old £20 notes

Money: Old £20 notes set to become void – key steps to take next with your cash (Image: Getty)

The final polymer release was announced by the central bank on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 as a £50 note, featuring Enigma scientist and mathematician, Alan Turing, whose work was essential during the Second World War. The release date coincided with what would have been Mr Turing’s 109th birthday.

The Bank of England explained: “The polymer £50 note contains advanced security features, completing our most secure set of Bank of England polymer banknotes yet. The note, like the £20, incorporates two windows and a two-colour foil, making it very difficult to counterfeit. 

“There is also a hologram image which changes between the words ‘Fifty’ and ‘Pounds’ when tilting the note from side to side.

“One of the benefits shared by all our polymer banknotes is that they last longer than paper notes and they stay in better condition during their use. This note, like the polymer £10 and £20 will contain a tactile feature to help vision impaired people identify the denomination.”


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The newest notes have joined the Winston Churchill £5 and the Jane Austen £10, meaning all Bank of England notes are now available on polymer, and soon enough, paper notes will not be commonplace across the country anymore. 

But Britons needn’t worry about what to do with their old notes, as many people are in the same boat, and this is something the Bank of England has accounted for upon its rollout process of the newer polymers.

Although these older notes will no longer be able to be used as legal tender, the central bank will always accept them. Recently, a BoE spokesperson told the BBC: “All genuine Bank of England banknotes that have been withdrawn from circulation retain their face value for all time.”

Thankfully, there are a number of ways Britons will be able to exchange or cash in their old notes. The first port of call for most individuals will be their local bank branch, where they will usually be able to take any old notes up to the counter to be exchanged for the newer versions.

money old notes £20 £50

Money: Old £20 and £50 notes will cease to become legal tender in 2022 (Image: Getty)

Other providers may simply allow individuals to deposit the “old money” into their bank account and take the older note to be sent back to the Bank of England. This is arguably one of the most convenient actions which can be taken with paper notes.

Failing this, however, individuals are also encouraged to visit the Post Office which may be able to do so. But it is worth noting once a note has been removed from circulation, a bank or Post Office has no legal obligation to undertake a switch.

The Bank of England confirms that it will be able to make the switch for those who find old money. This can either be done in person, or via post, depending on what is the most convenient option for the person in question. 

The bank is located in Threadneedle Street, London, and individuals will be able to post their old notes in an envelope to the bank to be exchanged for a polymer note.

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However, for those who are closer by, a visit to the central bank could be the most appropriate action. There may, though, be a waiting time to reach a desk to bear in mind, depending on how busy it is at the particular time a person chooses to visit.

Recently, the extent of paper notes held right across the country was uncovered by a Freedom of Information request, undertaken by BBC Wales. 

The Bank of England said more than £28billion in old £5, £10, £20, and even £50 notes are yet to be cashed in. Some 114 million paper £5 notes, 76 million £10 paper notes, 510 millions £20 paper notes and 341 million £50 paper notes are held by people across the country.

In addition, there are thought to be approximately £109million in the older round pound coins which have not been banked, according to the Royal Mint. 

Roy Walsh

Roy Walsh

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