Questions on damaged polymer £5, £10 and £20 Bank of England banknotes

Freedom of Information rules mean that, as a public authority, the Bank of England is obliged to disclose certain types of information, both proactively and on request.

Date: 30 May 2022

Disclosure:

1. How many £20 polymer notes has the Bank of England had to replace due to damage since they were introduced?

The Bank of England (the ‘Bank’) launched the polymer £20 note in February 2020 and since then approximately 13m polymer £20 notes have been replaced due to everyday wear and damage. The table below shows the yearly breakdown of the number of polymer £20 notes that have been replaced since the launch in 2020:

Calendar Year  2020  2021 
Number of £20 polymer notes in circulation  1555m  2185m 
Number replaced  1m  12m 

2. How many £5 polymer notes has the Bank of England had to replace due to damage since they were introduced?

The Bank launched the polymer £5 note in September 2016 and since then approximately 84.6m polymer £5 notes have been replaced due to everyday wear and damage. The table below shows the yearly breakdown of the number of polymer £5 notes that have been replaced since the launch in 2016:

Calendar Year  2016  2017  2018  2019  2020  2021 
Number of £5 polymer notes in circulation  197m  272m  290m  309m  303m  296m 
Number replaced  None 0.6m  11m  14m  15m  44m 

3. How many £10 polymer notes has the Bank of England had to replace due to damage since it was introduced?

The Bank launched the polymer £10 note in September 2017 and since then approximately 62m polymer £10 notes have been replaced due to everyday wear and damage. The table below shows the yearly breakdown of the number of polymer £10 notes that have been replaced since the launch in 2017:

Calendar Year  2017  2018  2019  2020  2021 
Number of £10 polymer notes in circulation  603m  973m  1253m  1511m  1426m 
Number replaced  None  12m  23m  12m  15m 
4. What are the main types of damage caused to the notes (i.e. torn, defaced etc) that have had to be replaced?

Damage to the £10 and £20 mainly relates to folds and cuts. These types of damage were also the main driver of polymer £5 replacement prior to 2020. Since 2020, gradual wear of the foil and ink of the polymer £5 have become the primary reason why this denomination has needed replacement. This is consistent with the Bank’s expectations given the fitness standards that are applied when sorting notes, which are kept under review. It reflects how the £5 is used as a change item for transactions and therefore experiences more frequent wear than the other denominations. 

5. What is the cost to the Bank of England of replacing the polymer £5 and £10 and £20 notes that have been damaged?

The Bank expects a certain amount of banknotes in circulation to be damaged and the cost of replacement forms part of the Bank’s ongoing issuance programme. Banknote expense figures are included in the ‘Notes to the Issue Department statements of account’ in the ‘Financial Statements’ of the Bank’s Annual Reports on our website.

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