If you find any old paper £20 and £50 in pockets, bags or piggy banks - while it’s nearly six months since they were last accepted as payment - you can still pay them into your bank, at some Post Offices or swap them over the counter at the Bank of England.
Old paper £20 and £50 notes are no longer legal tender but at 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 high street banks and some 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 actually ‘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 that accepts them, or have anyone in your family with a bank account, who will agree to pay in your old note for you and give you the money, your only option may be to take a trip to the Bank of England to 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 with many bank branches and building societies closing - even if your bank does accept the old notes, it may mean travelling some way to find your nearest branch.
Accepting old paper notes is at your bank’s discretion and if they accept them, they will usually all 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 say 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. And if you don’t have an account – you can still exchange £20 and £50 paper notes for polymer versions - up to a value of £250.
Santander say old bank notes can only be paid into an existing account and will be accepted indefinitely.
Halifax say 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 say 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 say 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 say 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 say customers with accounts can pay in old £20 and £50 in and there is no time limit for this.
Barclays say 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 this is at your own risk.
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 where you can swap your note in person.
And if you’ve never been there, it could be a day out, especially if you take a look at the Bank of England museum too. This free museum is open on weekdays between 10am – 5pm and until 8pm on the third Thursday of each month.
How to exchange old bank notes at the Bank of England
Anyone can go along in person 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. However the Bank has warned of long queues and waiting times and 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 some form of photo ID to verify your identity along with completing a form at the counter.
The Bank of England suggest that unless you need to swap your notes urgently – you consider sending them in by post
However this is at your own risk and if you’re considering this, should be done by recorded or special delivery. Once again the Bank warn that this too could mean a delay in receiving payment, which, “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
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.
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.
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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!
- Kalpana FitzpatrickDigital Editor, MoneyWeek