Questions on paper Bank of England £5 and £10 notes returned or still in circulation, and £20 paper notes in circulation

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

Date: 28 February 2020


1) The number of Bank of England paper £5 and £10 banknotes which have A) been returned and B) are still in circulation as at 31 January 2020.

The table below provides the number of Bank of England £5 and £10 paper banknotes which have been returned and are still in circulation as at 31 January 2020:

Returned (millions) In circulation (millions)
£5 paper banknotes 226 117
£10 paper banknotes 705 86

2) How many paper £20 notes are in circulation (and total value) and the Bank of England’s expected return rate for 2020.

The number of Bank of England paper £20 notes in circulation as at 31 January 2020 was 1,887 million which equates to a value of £37,738,852,160.

The Bank is not in a position at this stage to provide a meaningful expected return rate for paper £20 notes for 2020. There are a number of factors that will affect the rate of return of the notes. 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.

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.

All genuine Bank of England banknotes that have been withdrawn from circulation retain their face value for all time and can still be exchanged over the counter.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.

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