Number of paper Bank of England £5, £10 and £20 banknotes returned or still in circulation as at 1 July 2020

We publish details of a selection of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and the information we disclose in response.

Date: 27 July 2020


The table below provides the number of Bank of England (the ‘Bank’) £5, £10 and £20 paper banknotes which have been returned and are still in circulation as at 1 July 2020:

   Returned (millions)  In circulation (millions)
 £5 paper banknotes  227  115
 £10 paper banknotes  708  83
 £20 paper banknotes  686  1,157

The number of Bank of England £10 paper banknotes returned is broadly in-line with our expectations. The number of Bank of England £5 paper banknotes returned is lower than expected. This is likely to be the result of it being a lower denomination banknote and therefore more paper banknotes are likely to have been lost or damaged over the years or kept as souvenirs.

For the £20, there are a number of factors affecting the returns we are seeing. For example, returns tend to increase just prior to the date that the paper £20 notes will cease to be Legal Tender.  A decision on this date has not yet been made – although we have committed to give six months’ notice of when the date will be. Returns will also be affected by the volume of paper £20 notes held overseas, which we do not have accurate data on. Another relevant factor at this current time is the impact of Covid-19 on spending and how this feeds through into changes in the rate at which the old paper notes are being spent, deposited at financial institutions, and subsequently returned to the Bank.

All genuine Bank of England banknotes that have been withdrawn from circulation retain their face value for all time and can still be exchanged over the counter. There is no fee for this service and there is no expiry on the period in which we will exchange old notes. Banknotes can also be exchanged by post. Details on how to exchange banknotes.