Six months left to spend your paper £20 and £50 banknotes

The Bank of England will be withdrawing legal tender status of the paper £20 and £50 notes after 30 September 2022
Published on 29 March 2022

News release

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 £7 billion worth of paper £20 and £10.5 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.

Once this deadline has passed, people will no longer be able to spend Bank of England paper notes in shops, or use them to pay businesses. People with a UK bank account will still be able to deposit withdrawn notes into their account. Some Post Offices may also accept withdrawn notes as payment for goods and services or as a deposit to an account accessed via them.

The Bank of England will continue to exchange all withdrawn notes.

Speaking ahead of the date, the Bank of England’s Chief Cashier Sarah John said “We want to remind the public that from today they only have six months left to spend or deposit their paper £20 and £50 notes. Over the past few years we have been changing our banknotes from paper to polymer, because these designs are more difficult to counterfeit, whilst also being more durable. A large number of these paper notes have now been returned to us, and replaced with the polymer £20 featuring the artist J.M.W. Turner, and the polymer £50 featuring the scientist Alan Turing. However if members of the public still have any of these paper notes in their possession, they should deposit or spend them whilst they can”.

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 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.

Notes to editors

  1. Images of Bank of England banknotes can be found on the Bank’s Flickr site.
  2. The Smith and Boulton and Watts notes are being withdrawn under authority given to the Bank by virtue of Section 1 (5) of the Currency and Banknotes Act 1954.
  3. ‘Legal tender’ means that if a debtor pays in legal tender the exact amount they owe under the terms of 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 of agreement between the parties involved.
  4. 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 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.
  5. 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, 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. All AIB Group (UK) plc/First Trust Bank banknotes will cease to be legal currency after midnight on 30 June 2022 and can be used as normal until then.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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