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£1.8 billion of old fivers and tenners still out there – how to make them spendable again

Almost 250 million old £5 and £10 paper notes have yet to be returned to the Bank of England since shops stopped accepting them – if you've got one, here's how to make it spendable again.

The Bank of England has revealed to MoneySavingExpert.com that around 124 million paper £5 notes and around 122 million paper £10 notes are yet to be returned, despite the paper £5 no longer being accepted in shops since May 2017, and the paper £10 since March this year.

Old banknotes retain their value for all time, so while you can't use them in shops, you can return them to the Bank of England or to most major banks and get a new polymer banknote in exchange.

If you've got a new polymer £5, check if it's worth a fortune. See our blog How to check if your new fiver’s worth £100s.

How many paper notes haven't been returned?

The unreturned £5 and £10s are worth a combined value of about £1,840,000,000 (one billion, eight hundred and forty million pounds).

This figure includes the more recent Elizabeth Fry £5 paper notes and Charles Darwin £10 notes, as well as earlier paper notes. The Bank of England says it doesn't have data on exactly when each of the missing notes are from, but says customers do even occasionally return 'white' fivers, which went out of circulation back in 1961.

The Bank of England polymer £5 banknote was issued on 13 September 2016 and the legal tender status of the Elizabeth Fry paper £5 note was withdrawn on 5 May 2017. The polymer £10 banknote was issued on 14 September 2017 and legal tender status for the paper Charles Darwin £10 banknote was withdrawn on 1 March 2018.

There are now currently around 269 million polymer £5 Bank of England notes and 777 million polymer £10 notes in circulation.

How can you make your old notes spendable?

You can exchange all old Bank of England notes directly at the Bank itself, which is in Threadneedle Street, London. Its counter is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm, but is closed at weekends and on bank holidays. You may need to provide two original identity documents (one photo ID and one proof of address) for any exchange.

Queues can be long, so unless you require notes immediately you may be better to post them and have the money deposited into your bank account. You can send the notes to Department NEX, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London, EC2R 8AH. Full details on what to include can be found on the Bank of England website.

Many major banks, including Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest, RBS, Santander and Ulster Bank have confirmed to us that they are still allowing their customers ONLY to deposit old paper Bank of England notes into their bank accounts. It may mean an annoying journey if you don't live anywhere near a branch of your bank.

The Post Office also allows customers of the following banks to deposit any old notes into their usual high street bank account at their local Post Office branch, and withdraw money:

  • Allied Irish Bank (GB)
  • Bank of Ireland
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Barclays
  • CAF
  • Cahoot
  • Cashplus
  • Clydesdale Bank
  • Co-op Bank
  • Danske Bank
  • First Direct
  • First Trust Bank
  • Halifax
  • Handelsbanken
  • HSBC
  • Lloyds Bank
  • Metro Bank
  • Nationwide
  • NatWest
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Santander
  • Smile
  • Think Money
  • TSB
  • Ulster Bank
  • Virgin Money
  • Yorkshire Bank

What does the Bank of England say?

The Bank of England says the number of unreturned paper £10 notes is broadly in-line with its expectations for 18 months after withdrawal of legal tender status.

But it says the number of unreturned paper £5 notes is higher than expected. It says this is likely to be the result of it being a lower value note and therefore more notes are likely to have been lost or damaged over the years or kept as souvenirs.