When will paper £20 and £50 notes expire?

Old notes will soon be taken out of circulation by the Bank of England

Paper banknotes
There are still more than £14bn worth of paper notes in circulation
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The last day to spend old £20 and £50 paper notes is fast approaching before they are replaced by the new polymer versions.

“Check your pockets, wallets, and the back of your sofa,” said the Evening Standard, warning that there are fewer than 100 days left to use the old notes.

According to the Bank of England, the majority of banknotes have been replaced but there are still more than £6bn worth of paper £20s and £8bn worth of paper £50s in circulation. After 30 September, these will no longer be legal tender.

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Why are £20 and £50 notes changing?

The latest polymer banknote to be issued was the £50 note “featuring Bletchley Park codebreaker and scientist Alan Turing” last year, said Sky News. “The Turing £50 completed the Bank’s ‘family’ of polymer notes, with all of its denominations – £5, £10, £20 and £50 – now printed on polymer.”

The first plastic £20 note, featuring artist JMW Turner, was issued in February 2020. The £10 polymer features author Jane Austen, while the £5 shows war-time prime minister Sir Winston Churchill.

Sarah John, chief cashier at the Bank of England, said the change was an “important development” because “it makes them more difficult to counterfeit”. The plastic notes “are also more durable – something you’d know if you are in the minority of nostalgic people who still use them”, said City A.M.

What should you do with old notes?

Old notes can be spent on goods and services in the usual way up until 30 September. Or, “if you’re not feeling like it, given we’re living in a cost-of-living crisis with inflation on the rise, feel free to deposit them at the bank or at the post office”, added City A.M.

What happens after 30 September?

The old notes will still be accepted as a deposit into an account by “many banks and some post offices”, said the Evening Standard.

The Bank of England will also exchange them in person at its premises in London or by post.

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