More than 200 million outdated £5 and £10 banknotes — worth more than £1.5bn — have yet to be returned to the Bank of England even though they stopped being legal tender over a year ago.
Around 118 million old £5 notes, which were withdrawn in May 2017, and about 94 million old £10 notes, which were withdrawn in March 2018, are still in circulation, according to the Bank of England.
While hundreds of millions of old notes have been returned, the bank said that the number of £5 notes returned — more than 224 million — was lower than they had expected.
Some 697 million £10 notes have been returned, which is in line with expectations.
The bank, which is legally obliged to exchange the outdated notes at face value, said the lower-value £5 notes were more likely to be lost or damaged.
Because the old notes — which are made from cotton — are no longer legal tender, retailers will not accept them.
But those with old notes can take or post them to Threadneedle St, where the Bank of England is located.
“All genuine Bank of England banknotes that have been withdrawn from circulation retain their face value for all time and can still be exchanged over the counter,” a spokesperson for the Bank of England said on Tuesday.
“There is no fee for this service and there is no expiry on the period in which we will exchange old notes. Banknotes can also be exchanged by post.”
Production of the new £10 note, which features author Jane Austen, began in August 2017.
The more durable polymer banknote was released into circulation the following month.
New £20 notes featuring artist JMW Turner will go into circulation in 2020, while the Bank of England last month announced that Bletchley Park code breaker Alan Turing would be the new face of the £50 note from 2021.