Do banks still take old notes?

There’s just a few days left to pay with old style paper £20 and £50 bank notes – as the last day to spend them is 30 September

man paying with old note
(Image credit: getty images)

You can’t spend old paper £20 and £50 in the shops any more – but you can exchange them at some banks.

Old paper £20 and £50 notes are no longer legal tender but you can exchange them at the Bank of England, some Post Offices and many high street banks will accept them too.

At the last count there were £4.8 billion worth of £20 paper bank notes and £5.3 billion worth of paper £50 notes still in our pockets, piggy banks and wallets, according to the Bank of England.

This works out at 242 million individual £20 notes and 106 million paper £50 notes.

Where can I deposit old notes?

Most banks and Post Offices will let you pay in those old £20 and £50 notes.  However you’ll usually need an account with the relevant bank or building society so you can ‘pay in’ the money – rather than just swap notes over the counter.    

If you don’t have an account with a bank or building society your only option may be to take a trip to the Bank of England and swap your note in person.

Which banks will take old bank notes?

Most UK banks will allow you to pay in old paper bank notes – however this is at their discretion as they will usually insist you have an account there.

Here’s how it works with some of the major banks and building societies we contacted:

Bank of Scotland says customers can exchange or deposit £20 and £50 paper Bank of England or Bank of Scotland bank notes into Lloyds Bank, Halifax or Bank of Scotland accounts.  Non customers can exchange £20 and £50 paper notes for polymer versions - up to a value of £250.

Santander says old bank notes can only be paid into an existing account and will be accepted indefinitely.

Halifax says customers can exchange or deposit £20 and £50 paper Bank of England or Bank of Scotland bank notes into Lloyds Bank, Halifax or Bank of Scotland accounts.   

Lloyds says customers can exchange or deposit £20 and £50 paper Bank of England or Bank of Scotland bank notes into Lloyds Bank, Halifax or Bank of Scotland accounts.  

TSB says old £20 and £50 paper notes are still accepted over the counter in branches to deposit in TSB accounts.  No time limit on when this will end.

Virgin Money says Old notes can be exchanged in any Virgin Money store up to the value of £250. This is regardless of whether you are a customer or not.  

Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank say all customers  can deposit old notes into their bank accounts with no limit on the amount you can pay in.

Nationwide says it accepts old notes (and coins) from existing members as they have to be paid into an existing account they hold with the Society. There is no time limit.

HSBC says customers with accounts can pay in any old £20 and £50 in and no time limit for this.

Barclays says you can deposit old notes if you have a UK bank account with it. It also says you can send notes to it by post, but at your own risk.

How to exchange old bank notes at the Bank of England

If you’re up for the trip – you can go to the Bank of England in London – where you can hand over your old withdrawn notes at the counter for shiny new polymer ones.   

The Bank of England counter is open from 9.30am – 3pm from Monday to Friday.  But the Bank has warned of long queues and waiting times and has said: “if you arrive after midday it is possible we will have reached capacity and you may not get served before we close”.

Get there early is the message and go armed with the relevant ID.  You’ll need to take along two documents – one with proof of your address and another with photo ID to verify your identity along with completing a form at the counter.

The Bank of England suggests that unless you need to swap your notes urgently – you consider sending them in by post (opens in new tab).  

This should be done by recorded or special delivery - however once again it warns that this too could mean, “a wait time for your payment may be in excess of 30 days”.

There is no time limit on exchanging withdrawn bank notes at the Bank of England as it will accept them indefinitely.

How to exchange old bank notes at the Post Office

In some cases you may be able to exchange some old paper notes for the current polymer version at selected Post Offices.

The notes that can be exchanged are -

  • Elizabeth Fry paper £5 note
  • Charles Darwin paper £10 note
  • Adam Smith paper £20 note
  • Boulton and Watt paper £50 note

All the Post Office branches that will accept the old paper note are listed on the Bank of England website (opens in new tab) or you can check the Post Office website (opens in new tab).   

When presenting notes at the counter – you’ll also be asked for one form of photo ID. This can be a valid passport, driving licence or an national identity card from any EU country.  

If you’ve got a large amount of notes stashed away – worth knowing  there is a limit on the amount you can exchange at the Post Office which says you can only swap up to £300 in old notes every two years.

Where can I exchange damaged bank notes?

If you’ve got genuine Bank of England bank notes that have been through the wash, been chewed by the dog or torn or damaged – you may be able to get your money back.

You’ll need to send your damaged note to the Bank of England – and in most cases - providing you have at least half the note you can get its full value repaid to your bank account.

In order to claim you’ll need to fill in the Bank of England’s damaged banknote application form (opens in new tab).  

You should then send this by courier or post – ideally using the Special Delivery service - along with what’s left of your banknote to the address listed on the form.    

For claims of £700 or more, you may need to provide additional proof of ID and address.

Sue Hayward

Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound.  Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!

With contributions from