Britons urged to check their old £5, £10 and £20 notes – you could exchange for valid cash

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Banknotes can easily become lost over time, but regardless of where a person saw their old banknotes last, they may not be just invaluable pieces of paper. While they are not legal tender, they can be switched for valid cash, and all individuals will need to do is take action on the matter. A recent Freedom of Information request undertaken by BBC Wales has shown the extent of old banknotes hidden in homes across the UK.

The Bank of England responded by saying more than £28billion in old £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes have not yet been cashed in.

These older paper notes were phased out at different times in favour of polymer alternatives.

Paper £5 notes were stopped in May 2017, and by March 2018, the older £10 notes were also phased out.

More recently, the newer £20 and £50 notes have been released, meaning their older alternatives will be removed by September 2022 – where paper notes will disappear entirely from legal tender.

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old banknotes money UK 2021

Money: Britons urged to check their old £5, £10 and £20 notes – take action now (Image: Getty)

The change, the central bank stated, is due to the increased security features of the newer notes which make them more difficult to copy.

In addition, polymer is seen to be high quality and longer lasting which is useful for Britons. 

But many people will still have older money, whether this is in an old jeans pocket, or in the back of a chest of drawers.

Fortunately, though, this can be switched out in favour of new money, despite the currency ceasing to be able to be used.


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The Bank of England confirmed to the BBC that older notes would always be accepted.

A spokesperson told the organisation: “All genuine Bank of England banknotes that have been withdrawn from circulation retain their face value for all time.”

The Bank of England’s website has also issued further guidance to those who hold the older notes.

It states that those who have a UK bank account should deposit old notes with their bank as the “simplest and quickest” method of exchange.

money banknotes bank of england

Money: Newer polymer notes are replacing paper notes (Image: Getty)

The Post Office, it says, may also accept withdrawn notes as payments for goods and services, or as a deposit into any bank account accessible through them.

The website added: “You can always exchange withdrawn notes with us by post.

“Be aware the banknotes are sent at your own risk. So please take appropriate measures to insure against loss or theft.”

The central bank can pay the money into a bank account, by cheque, or if in the UK and an exchange is worth less than £50, in new banknotes.

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If the Bank of England is unable to make an electronic payment, then it will send a sterling cheque payable to the person concerned.

The central bank also has a counter open at Threadneedle Street, London, from 9.30am to 3pm on Monday to Friday.

If exchanging banknotes in person, individuals may need to complete a form, and will have to provide at least two original identity documents for proof of identity and address if exchanging £700 or more.

Cash can be particularly useful, however, due to the pandemic, more people have been asked to use contactless card in certain establishments.

This has led to some fears about the longevity of cash going forward. 

Harry Byrne

Harry Byrne

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