How to exchange your ‘old’ British £20 and £50 notes

The UK’s old-style £20 and £50 notes are no longer legal tender.

By David Flynn, January 9 2023
How to exchange your ‘old’ British £20 and £50 notes

Many travellers making their first visit to the UK since Covid’s arrival in early 2020 will be for in a rude shock if they’ve been hanging onto £20 or £50 notes from their last pre-pandemic trip.

The Bank of England upgraded those two notes from paper to polymer across 2020-2021, with not only a fresh design but a raft of high-security features to defeat counterfeiters.

Now, after a lengthy transition period giving Brits and anybody holding these old notes time to cycle through their old currency, these old notes are now no longer legal tender, meaning they won't be accepted in shops, cafes, restaurants or anywhere else for that matter.

So what can you do with those old £20 and £50 notes?

Exchanging old British £20 and £50 notes

You can take them to selected UK Post Office branches – along with your passport or drivers licence, to serve as photo ID – to exchange them for the newer versions.

The Post Office can also exchange older paper £5 notes (which ceased to be legal tender in May 2017) and £10 notes (null and void from March 2018).

Use the Post Office Brand Finder page to locate a Post Office which swaps UK currency by entering your UK address, suburb or postcode, and in the drop-down Branch Services list, select Bank of England Banknote Exchange under the 'Your Finances' heading.

(Here are the centrally-located Post Office branches in London which will exchange UK bank notes: Golders Green, High Holborn, Moorgate, City of London and Regent Street St. James)

You can also swap your old £20 and £50 notes for crisp new ones at The Bank of England itself: visit the Bank of England Counter at Threadneedle Street, London, which is open from 9.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday.

There’s also an option if you’re not headed to the UK any time soon: take those old £20 and £50 notes to any nearby currency exchange store and have them swapped for local currency.

While there’s no guarantee the currency exchange store will accept those notes, plenty of Executive Traveller readers have reported success, even if this means taking a bit of a hit on the conversion rate.)

05 Oct 2022

Total posts 1

I am currently in London and went to the Regent Street St James post office to exchange my old notes, only to discover there is a limit of £300 per person, per every two years (I had £420). As well as entering details from my passport into the system, I was asked for my street number and postcode from home. I was offered a gift card for the remaining £120, to be used at a number of stores in the UK, but declined this. I was with a UK friend and the staff member said I could swap the remainder with her and she could pay the old notes into her bank account, which we ended up doing.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 642

So what do those of us in Australia do with these 'paper' banknotes?  How do we exchange them or 'cash them out' ?

25 Jan 2023

Total posts 1

This question is answered above

Take them to your local exchange

Like you normally would do with them

Read it properly before leaving a comment 

When I was last in the UK, I wasted significant time going into banks and post offices, unsuccessfully trying to change old notes for new. In the end, I used a Forex kiosk which charged a fee, but at least took the old notes off my hands. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2016

Total posts 55

In 2019 I had some old UK notes and at that time I had to go to the Bank of England to change them and just recently in July 2022 I was in Switzerland and discovered that a CHF20 note I think it was that I got on a previous visit was no longer accepted but I was able to exchange it at a local bank without any trouble.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 527

I was just in Switzerland too and had a previous series CHF 100 note that I needed to exchange for a newer version after it was rejected for payment. I went into a random bank branch and they did it for me, quick and easy. No need to show ID, no limit on the amount exchanged. The whole thing took 20 seconds. Much more efficient than the procedure in the UK by the sounds of it. 

Etihad - Etihad Guest

30 Jan 2019

Total posts 1

My experience in August in the  UK was that even though they were still valid one could not even exchange them unless one had a bank account not very helpful in fact 4 different banks told me that this was the only way they would do this .


29 Aug 2018

Total posts 14

I have a UK bank account, just have to fly there and change maybe less than £200!

Thought I'd better check what I've got left from 4 years ago--luckily, only one polymer 5 pound note and probably a few coins.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Sep 2018

Total posts 4

Managed to change my old fivers and tenners when visiting in 2018. I also found that it took a few visits to find a bank that’d accept them and similarly limits were applied. The latter condition seemed so illogical. 

16 Nov 2022

Total posts 1

How can you exchange your old notes if you live in New Zealand?

11 Sep 2023

Total posts 1

Hi Fiona

Did you manage to exchange your old British pound notes in NZ. If successful, would you mind me asking you where exactly. I have a few on me. Thank You 🙏

Discovered I had almost £200 of these old notes, but no plans to be back in the UK any time soon, so I took them to a money change store and had them converted into AU. The store had no issues accepting these old notes.

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