Money: £19bn in old UK banknotes and coins not cashed in

By Alun Jones
BBC News

  • Published
£20 notesImage source, Bank of England
Image caption,
Paper banknotes worth £18.9bn remain in circulation - paper £20 and £50 notes cannot be used after 30 September 2022

Almost £19bn in old banknotes are still being used, six months before paper £20 and £50 notes stop being legal tender.

Paper £10 and £5 banknotes have already been withdrawn, while paper £20 and £50 notes cannot be used after 30 September 2022.

They have been replaced with new plastic notes with a series of security features.

However, the Bank of England said it will continue to swap old notes for their face value.

There are also £105m of old one pound coins in circulation, according to the Royal Mint.

Details of the cash still in circulation or hiding in homes was revealed in a Freedom of Information requests by BBC Wales.

The Bank of England said 775 million paper banknotes remain in circulation.

  • 113 million paper £5 notes remain in circulation
  • 73 million paper £10 notes remain in circulation
  • 360 million paper £20 notes remain in circulation
  • 209 million paper £50 notes remain in circulation

The paper £5 notes were withdrawn in May 2017, and the paper £10 notes in March 2018, since when they have not been a legally accepted means of payment.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The round £1 coin was demonetised at midnight on 15 October 2017

In addition to the paper cash, the Royal Mint said about 105 million old-style £1 coins have not been returned.

Out of the 1.6 billion that have been returned, about 1.45 million were counterfeits.

The round £1 coin was replaced by the 12-sided version in October 2017, to crack down on counterfeiting.

The old-style coin can still be deposited at high street banks - but cannot be spent in shops.

According to the Royal Mint, a company wholly owned by the UK Treasury, about 138 million round £1 coins were melted down to make some of the new ones at its base in Llantrisant in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Image source, Bank of England
Image caption,
The new plastic £50 note has a series of security features

The polymer £50 note featuring the portrait of Alan Turing entered circulation on 23 June 2021, meaning the Bank's entire collection of currently-printed banknotes is made of plastic.

'Retain face value'

While the paper £5 and £10 notes are no longer legal tender, they will always be exchanged by the Bank of England.

A spokeswoman explained that "all genuine Bank of England banknotes that have been withdrawn from circulation retain their face value for all time".

Image source, Nick Ansell/PA
Image caption,
Old paper £10 notes and round £1 coins are no longer legal tender

People can also post old notes to the bank in Threadneedle Street, in the City of London, to be paid into a bank account, by cheque or, "if you live in the UK and your exchange is worth less than £50", swapped for new-style polymer ones.

Old notes can also be taken there in person but the the bank warns of "long queues and waiting times up to an hour".

If you have a UK bank account, the Bank of England said the simplest and quickest way to exchange paper £20 and £50 notes "will normally be to deposit them with your bank".

Image source, PA
Image caption,
£566m worth of £5 paper banknotes remain in circulation

The use of cash fell sharply during the coronavirus pandemic, as lockdowns reduced options for spending.

This accelerated a downward trend for the use of notes and coins.

However, cash still accounted for 17% of all payments in 2020, according to the latest available figures by banking trade body UK Finance, making it the second most-popular way to pay after debit cards. Figures for 2021 will be published this summer.

The new £1 coin is described by the Mint as the most "secure in the world" and has a string of anti-counterfeiting details, including a hologram, and micro-sized lettering inside both rims.

It also has material inside which can be detected when electronically scanned by coin-counting or payment machines.