Have £20 and/or £50 Notes From the U.K.? Heads Up!

by SharonKurheg

When it comes to money, the U.S. is pretty boring. We’ve had the same coins for decades, with few visible changes, save for artwork. Our monochromatic paper money is even worse. We’re just as much to blame as the mint, by the way – when new money has been introduced, such as Sacagewea dollar coins or $2 bills, they failed pretty miserably. The only “different” coins that have been embraced by the American public are the different backs on quarters.

Meanwhile, if you ever traveled internationally before electronic payments were the norm, you know that money in other countries has not only historically been more interesting than ours, but periodically gets changed out much more frequently than ours, as well, with new materials, new artwork, etc.

When some countries do this “switch,” the “old” versions are allowed to remain legal tender until the end of their natural lives. Other countries allow “old” money to stay in the system for a certain period of time and then “retire” them. Such is the case with the United Kingdom.

We mused about “expired” money from the U.K. a while back. At the time, we discovered that several of our £10 notes and £1 coins were no longer legal tender.

Turns out they’re doing it again, this time with £20 and £50 notes. As of September 30th, the paper versions of both will no longer be legal tender.

The Bank of England began replacing the paper notes with polymer notes back in February 2020. They warned that the old notes would expire at the end of September, 2022, which is fine for those actually in the UK, or who have travel plans by the end of September. But for people like us, there was a pandemic going on and, well, I guess we’re going to be stuck with some paper money by the time all of this is done. 😉

Apparently we’re not the only ones, though. The BBC estimates that there are 163 million paper £50 banknotes still in circulation and 314 million £20 paper notes.

Sarah John, the Bank of England’s chief cashier said “Changing our banknotes from paper to polymer over recent years has been an important development because it makes them more difficult to counterfeit, and means they are more durable.

“The majority of paper banknotes have now been taken out of circulation, but a significant number remain in the economy, so we’re asking you to check if you have any at home.”

According to The Bank of England, the polymer notes have enhanced security features such as the see-through window and the hologram, which makes them harder to counterfeit.

“They’re stronger, too: a polymer fiver is expected to last two-and-a-half times longer than the old paper £5 note. Although, while our notes are stronger, they are not indestructible – so you should still take care of them,” they added.

The Bank of England also says that polymer notes are more environmentally friendly thanks to their longer lifespan. This has been backed up by The Carbon Trust, who have confirmed the carbon footprint of polymer £5 notes is 16% lower than their former, £5 paper counterparts.

Paper £20 and £50 notes issued by Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland will also go out of circulation after 30 September, as will £20 and £50 notes from AIB Group, Danske Bank, Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland and Bank of Ireland.

After September 30th, you’ll still be able to deposit old paper money into a UK bank account or use them at a post office across the pond, but that’s about it.

Feature Image: Bank of England

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derek August 24, 2022 - 7:37 pm

Great reminder. I have some of those banknotes. Possibilities include waiting for the next trip to London then spending maybe 2 hours to go to the Bank of England’s main office to exchange or changing them to US currency within the next month.

Homercles J Simpson August 24, 2022 - 8:38 pm

On a previous occasion I was able to exchange old currency at a Barclay’s Bank branch


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