What to do with old £20 notes – how to exchange old notes for new ones

Old paper £20 and £50 notes are no longer legal tender. We explain what to do with your old banknotes and where to exchange them.

British pound banknotes
(Image credit: Photography taken by Mario Gutiérrez.)

Old £20 and £50 paper notes stopped being legal tender in the UK on 30 September 2022. This means you can’t use them in shops or as payment any more. 

But, according to the Bank of England, there is around £6billion worth of £20 paper notes and over £8billion worth of paper £50 notes in circulation – that’s around 300 million individual £20 notes and 160 million £50 notes that haven’t been used before the notes were withdrawn from circulation. 

Even though you can’t spend these old UK banknotes, it’s worth checking old bags, wallets and even the kids’ money boxes as you can still exchange old £20 and £50 notes.

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New polymer plastic notes are replacing paper ones as they are stronger - they will even survive in the washing machine should you accidentally leave some cash in your pocket. They are also harder to counterfeit, helping the central Bank lock down on fraud.

But what should you do if you come across any old ones? We look at what to do with old £20 and £50 paper notes and where to exchange them for new polymer versions.

Exchange old £20 and £50 notes at The Bank of England

One option is to take the old paper notes down to the Central Bank in person.

There is currently no time limit when it comes to exchanging your old UK banknotes at the Bank of England. You may need to present an original photo ID and proof of address when exchanging notes.  

In person: If you can and want to, you can swap your old notes at The Bank of England Counter, in Threadneedle Street, London. The counter is open between 9:30 am and 3 pm on weekdays (excluding bank holidays). But do be aware, the Bank of England may have long queues and that after midday you may not be able to be served if it’s reached capacity.

By post: You can also post your old UK banknotes to the Bank, but note that this is done at your own risk and you may want to insure yourself against loss before sending banknotes in the post. You’ll also need to fill in a postal exchange form and send photocopies of your proof of ID and proof of address.

Where to exchange your paper notes

Different banks have their own rules in place covering how they will handle paper banknotes ‒ while some are happy to exchange them for new polymer notes, others are not so understanding.

Banks that allow you to exchange paper notes will generally allow you to deposit the money into the account that you hold with them. Banks and building societies happy to exchange the old notes include Halifax, Lloyds, Nationwide, Barclays, NatWest and Santander - though keep in mind they may have a cut-off date.

In some cases you will be able to exchange the paper notes for the new polymer notes even if you do not have an account with that particular bank, for example with Bank of Scotland and Virgin Money.

How to exchange old paper £20 and £50 notes at the Post Office

You can deposit out-of-date banknotes – up to the value of £300 every two years – into your bank account at some local Post Offices. You will need to take photo ID so that the Post Office can keep track of how much you exchange and do not exceed the limit. You’ll be given the same value back in the new polymer notes.

These are the notes you can exchange at a Post Office:

  • Elizabeth Fry £5 note – ceased to be legal tender on 5 May 2017
  • Adam Smith £20 note – ceased to be legal tender on 30 September 2022
  • Charles Darwin £10 note – ceased to be legal tender on 1 March 2018
  • Boulton & Watt £50 note – ceased to be legal tender on 30 September 2022

Find all the participating Post Office branches where you can exchange old notes.

Kalpana Fitzpatrick

Kalpana is an award-winning journalist with extensive experience in financial journalism. She is also the author of Invest Now: The Simple Guide to Boosting Your Finances (Heligo) and children's money book Get to Know Money (DK Books). 

Her work includes writing for a number of media outlets, from national papers, magazines to books.

She has written for national papers and well-known women’s lifestyle and luxury titles. She was finance editor for Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Red and Prima.

She started her career at the Financial Times group, covering pensions and investments.

As a money expert, Kalpana is a regular guest on TV and radio – appearances include BBC One’s Morning Live, ITV’s Eat Well, Save Well, Sky News and more. She was also the resident money expert for the BBC Money 101 podcast .

Kalpana writes a monthly money column for Ideal Home and a weekly one for Woman magazine, alongside a monthly 'Ask Kalpana' column for Woman magazine.

Kalpana also often speaks at events. She is passionate about helping people be better with their money; her particular passion is to educate more people about getting started with investing the right way and promoting financial education.