The Bank of England will be withdrawing legal tender status of the paper £20 and £50 notes after 30 September 2022, and we are encouraging anyone who has these at home to spend or deposit them at their bank or Post Office.
There are approximately £9 billion worth of paper £20 and £15 billion worth of paper £50 notes still in circulation. As they are returned to the Bank of England, these are being replaced with the new polymer £20 notes featuring J.M.W. Turner, and polymer £50 notes featuring Alan Turing. After 30 September 2022, the new polymer notes will be the only ones with legal tender status.
After 30 September 2022 people with a UK bank account will still be able to deposit withdrawn notes into their account. Some Post Offices may also accept withdrawn notes as payment for goods and services or as a deposit to an account accessed via them.
The Bank of England will continue to exchange all withdrawn notes. For more information on this please see our Exchanging old banknotes page.
Speaking ahead of the date, the Bank of England’s Chief Cashier Sarah John said “In recent years we have been changing our banknotes from paper to polymer because this makes them more difficult to counterfeit, and means they are more durable. The polymer £20 featuring the artist J.M.W. Turner, and the polymer £50 featuring the scientist Alan Turing are now in wide circulation, and we are in the process of withdrawing their paper equivalents. So we want to remind the public that they have one year from today to spend their paper banknotes.”
The new polymer £20 was first issued on 20 February 2020, and the polymer £50 note was first issued on 23 June 2021. These notes complete the Bank of England’s first polymer series. The introduction of polymer banknotes allows for a new generation of security features which make them even harder to counterfeit. The notes are also resistant to dirt and moisture and so remain in better condition for longer. These notes also have tactile features that allow the blind and partially sighted to use them.
- Images of Bank of England banknotes can be found on the Bank’s Flickr site.
- Sarah John, Chief Cashier, is available for interview. Please submit any requests to the Bank’s Press Office on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Smith and Boulton and Watt notes are being withdrawn under authority given to the Bank by virtue of Section 1 (5) of the Currency and Banknotes Act 1954.
- 'Legal tender' means that if a debtor pays in legal tender the exact amount they owe under the terms of a contract, they have a good defence in law if they are subsequently sued for non-payment of the debt. In practice, the concept of 'legal tender' does not govern the acceptability of banknotes as a means of payment. This is essentially a matter for agreement between the parties involved.
- Paper £20 notes started to be withdrawn from circulation on 20 February 2020, when the polymer £20 entered circulation. Paper £50 notes started to be withdrawn on 23 June 2021, when the polymer £50 note entered circulation. Therefore there has been less time to withdraw these paper £50 notes, and more remain in circulation relative to the paper £20 notes.
- Clydesdale Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland are also in the process of withdrawing their paper £20 and £50 notes and suggest that retailers and the public spend or deposit these notes by 30 September 2022 as well.
- Turner was revealed as the character for the £20 note in April 2016. The selection of Turner is the first time the Bank of England has used the more open and transparent character selection process announced in December 2013. The process began in early 2015 with the formation of the Banknote Character Advisory Committee which as its first act selected the visual arts field. This was followed by a two month nomination period in summer 2015 during which members of the public could suggest a figure from the visual arts. The Bank received 29,701 nominations covering 590 eligible characters. The Committee, with input from public focus groups, then produced a shortlist which it discussed in detail with the Governor who made the final decision.
- Turing was revealed as the character for the £50 note in July 2019. Alan Turing was chosen following the Bank’s character selection process including advice from scientific experts. In 2018, the Banknote Character Advisory Committee chose to celebrate the field of science on the £50 note and this was followed by a six week public nomination period. The Bank received a total of 227,299 nominations, covering 989 eligible characters. The Committee considered all the nominations before deciding on a shortlist of 12 options, which were put to the then Governor Mark Carney for him to make the final decision.
- Old series Bank of England notes can be presented for exchange either in person at the Bank’s premises in London, or sent by post (at the sender’s risk) to: Dept NEX, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH. For further details, please see the Bank of England website.