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Bank of England gives one year to spend old £20 and £50 notes

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Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey with the new �50 note which features Alan Turing, at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes. Picture date: Monday June 21, 2021.
Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey with the new£50 note which features Alan Turing, at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes. Photo: PA

The Bank of England (BoE) has sounded the alarm on the withdrawal of the paper £20 and £50 notes after 30 September 2022, urging anyone who has these at home to spend or deposit them at their bank or Post Office.

There are approximately £9bn ($12bn) worth of paper £20 and £15bn worth of paper £50 notes still in circulation, the Bank said. 

As they are returned to the Bank these are being replaced with the new polymer £20 notes featuring JMW Turner, and polymer £50 notes featuring Alan Turing. After 30 September 2022, the new polymer notes will be the only ones with legal tender status.

Even after the deadline, people with a UK bank account will still be able to deposit withdrawn notes into their account. Some Post Offices may also accept withdrawn notes as payment for goods and services or as a deposit to an account accessed via them. The BoE said it will continue to exchange all withdrawn notes. 

The bank has revamped its currency over the last few years — from the materials the notes are made from, to the pictures that adorn them. 

In 2017, the central bank unveiled its first plastic £10 note, which featured 19th century British novelist Jane Austen. The plastic, or polymer, notes are a lot more durable than previous notes. However, they have drawn criticism from vegetarians and some religious groups for containing trace amounts of animal fats.

The new polymer £20 was first issued on 20 February 2020, and the polymer £50 note was first issued on 23 June 2021, completing the BoE's first polymer series. 

In July 2019, the Bank of England announced that Bletchley Park code breaker Turing would be on the £50, choosing him from a shortlist of almost 1,000 eligible names nominated by the public.

Read more: New £50 featuring Alan Turing enters circulation

There are currently 330 million £50 notes in circulation – with a combined value of £16.5bn. The £50 note accounts for 24% of Bank of England notes in circulation by value, and just under 10% by volume.

First introduced in 1725, the note was withdrawn in 1945 and reintroduced in 1981. At that point it had the purchasing power of around £217 at today’s prices. What's more, according to analysts at Hargreaves Lansdown, if you’d invested the £50 at launch it could be worth just over £2,300.

A Bank of England survey in 2013 also found that 27% of respondents had used a £50 in the previous year, while 29% had never used one.

Watch: British 50 pound note honors WW2 codebreaker

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