Britons urged to act as old banknotes can be switched for valid cash – do you hold them?

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Old banknotes are likely to be held by hundreds of thousands of people, who may not have taken action before they were phased out. Whether it is in the back of drawers, fallen down the side of a bed or in a back pocket, older banknotes could be easily misplaced, and then found at a later date. Within recent years, paper banknotes have been removed as legal tender in place of polymer alternatives.

This, the Bank of England has said, is to allow for enhanced security features, as well as making money high quality and long-lasting.

But old money will still be commonplace in the homes of many Britons, and some may still feel stuck with the cash. 

A Freedom of Information request undertaken by BBC Wales has shown the extent of the matter.

The Bank of England has shown more than £28billion in old £5, £10, £20 and even £50 notes have not been cashed in.

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money old banknotes

Money: Britons can switch old banknotes for valid cash – take action (Image: Getty)

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. 

Paper £5 notes ceased to be legal tender in May 2017, while old £10 notes were phased out by March 2018.

Similarly, the old pound coin has not been able to be used since 2017 when it was replaced by its newer 12-sided alternative.


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The Bank of England has said it issues new banknotes to make sure they are difficult to counterfeit, as well as to ensure the quality of cash.

Paper notes are set to be phased out entirely in September 2022, when it will no longer be possible to use £20 and £50 notes. 

However, all is not lost for those who hold older forms of money.

Although they cannot be used as legal tender, the central Bank will always accept them.

old money UK

Money: Old banknotes are no longer legal tender (Image: Getty)

A spokesperson told the BBC: “All genuine Bank of England banknotes that have been withdrawn from circulation retain their face value for all time.”

There are likely to be a number of ways a person can exchange or cash in their old notes and £1 coins.

Firstly, some banks may feel comfortable in swapping older notes and pound coins for the newer versions.

Some may also allow individuals to deposit this ‘old money’ into their bank account.

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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, however, confirms it will make the switch for those who find old money.

Individuals will be able to post old ones to the bank which is located in Threadneedle Street, in the City of London to be exchanged for a polymer note.

Alternatively, for those closer by, visiting the Bank of England in person may be an option, but the central Bank says there may be a waiting time to bear in mind. 

While having cash to hand is always thought to be a good idea, individuals are also encouraged to deposit into a bank account to ensure the security of their money. 

Roy Walsh

Roy Walsh

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