The Bank of England will be withdrawing legal tender status of paper £20 and £50 banknotes after 30 September 2022.
After this date, paper £20 and £50 banknotes will no longer be legal tender. So we are encouraging anyone who still has these to use them or deposit them at their bank or a Post Office during these last 100 days.
It is also exactly one year since we issued the polymer £50 banknote featuring the scientist Alan Turing, on what would have been his 109th birthday. The Turing £50 completed our family of polymer notes, with all denominations (£5, £10, £20 and £50) now printed on polymer.
While the majority of paper £20 and £50 banknotes in circulation have been replaced with new polymer versions, there are still over £6 billion worth of paper £20 featuring the economist Adam Smith, and over £8 billion worth of paper £50 banknotes featuring the engineers Boulton and Watt, in circulation. That’s more than 300 million individual £20 banknotes, and 160 million paper £50 banknotes.footnote 
Speaking ahead of the date, the Bank of England’s Chief Cashier Sarah John said “Changing our banknotes from paper to polymer over recent years has been an important development, because it makes them more difficult to counterfeit, and means they are more durable. The majority of paper banknotes have now been taken out of circulation, but a significant number remain in the economy, so we’re asking you to check if you have any at home. For the next 100 days, these can still be used or deposited at your bank in the normal way.”
Notes to editors
- Images of Bank of England banknotes can be found on the Bank’s Flickr site.
- The Smith and Boulton and Watt notes are being withdrawn under authority given to the Bank by virtue of Section 1 (5) of the Currency and Banknotes Act 1954.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- Paper £20 notes started to be withdrawn from circulation on 20 February 2020, when the polymer £20 entered circulation. Paper £50 notes started to be withdrawn on 23 June 2021, when the polymer £50 note entered circulation.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.
- Paper £20 and £50 notes issued by Clydesdale Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland will also be withdrawn after 30 September 2022, and these issuing authorities have advised retailers and the public to spend or deposit these notes by that date as well. The paper £20 notes issued by Bank of Ireland (UK) plc, AIB Group (UK) plc, Northern Bank Limited (trades as Danske Bank), and National Westminster Bank plc (trades as Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland) will also be withdrawn after 30 September 2022, and retailers and the public are also being advised to spend or deposit these notes ahead of the deadline.
- 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.
- See images of current and withdrawn banknotes.
314 million paper £20 banknotes with a value of £6.3 billion (as of 27/05/2022), and 163 million paper £50 with a value of £8.2 billion (as of 10/06/2022) remain in circulation