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Check piggybanks and down sofas as there's at least £1.4bn in old notes and coins out there – here's how to make them spendable again

Check piggybanks and down sofas as there's at least £1.4bn in old notes and coins out there – here's how to make them spendable again

Anyone with a piggybank, money jar or even a sofa (that may have cash down it) should check for old coins and notes. It comes as new stats reveal there's at least £1.4 billion in old paper £5 and £10 notes, and old £1 coins out there. Here's what to look for and how to make this cash spendable again.

New figures from the Bank of England have unearthed the full scale of the haul of unspendable notes in England and Wales, while Royal Mint data has revealed the number of coins swilling around the UK. The principle is similar for Scottish and Northern Irish notes, although figures have not been recently released for those.

There are 114 million Bank of England £5 paper notes and 76 million Bank of England £10 paper notes still out there, according to the Bank. Meanwhile, the Royal Mint says there are around 109 million old round pound coins that have yet to be returned. This means there's a combined total of at least £1.4 billion in cash that's technically unspendable.

If you're unsure what you're looking for, check out pictures of the old 'round pound' on the Royal Mint website and view images of the old paper £5 and £10 notes on the Bank of England website.

How to make old UK £1 coins and Bank of England-issued £5 and £10 notes spendable again

Bank of England paper £5 and £10 notes, which were issued in England and Wales (although they could still be spent elsewhere in the UK), are no longer legal tender having been replaced by polymer plastic versions in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Meanwhile, the old round £1 coin ceased to be legal tender across the UK in 2017 when it was replaced by the new 12-sided £1 coin.

Both the new £1 coin and the polymer notes have been designed to try to prevent against counterfeiting. But while a retailer may still choose to take your paper £5 and £10 notes and your old £1 coins, don't be surprised if many say no.

Here's how to make your old £1 coins and £5 and £10 Bank of England notes spendable again:

  • Your bank may swap or deposit old paper notes and coins. Banks don't legally have to accept old paper notes and coins once they've been withdrawn from circulation. However, some may continue to allow you to swap them while others may let you deposit old notes and coins into your account.

    Of the major banks that came back to us, Barclays, Nationwide and Santander all said you can deposit old notes and coins into your account. Barclays also said it would exchange old notes and coins worth up to £100 for customers (so long as they're not counterfeit or damaged). We've asked HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest to confirm their positions too and we'll update this story once we know more.
  • The Post Office will deposit old paper notes and coins into your bank account, which you can then withdraw. To do this, your bank will need to be signed up to receive cash deposits via the Post Office. You can check this on the Post Office website, although many major providers are signed up. You can't, however, do a direct cash swap at a post office. The Post Office told us this is a service it provides out of choice across all of its branches, but it's not something it has to do. 
  • FOR £5 AND £10 NOTES ONLY. If your bank or post office can't help, you can swap paper notes for polymer versions at the Bank of England. You can do this in person at the Bank of England counter at Threadneedle Street, London. You may need to provide two original identity (ID) documents (one photo ID and one proof of address) for any exchange – this is also mandatory for any exchange of £700 or more. To check what ID the Bank of England does accept, see the 'Identification we accept' page on its website.
  • You can also do this by post, which may be the only option for those who don't live or work in London. If you do this, consider paying extra for a delivery service that provides compensation if your post goes missing. You can find out more on the Bank of England website, while the Royal Mail website lists different delivery options alongside levels of compensation.

    Neither the Bank of England nor the Royal Mint will accept old coins.

  • Alternatively, ask a friend to help. If your bank or post office won't accept your old notes and coins, and you can't get to the Bank or England or you're worried about sending cash in the post – see if a friend or family member can ask their bank or post office instead. They can then transfer or hand over the money to you.

If you're going into the bank to deposit or swap old coins or notes, you might also want to use this as an opportunity to check you're making the most of your bank account. You can currently get a £150 gift card to switch, up to 3% back on bills or up to 2% interest – see our Best Bank Accounts guide for the top deals.

How to make Scottish-issued £5 and £10 notes spendable again

Scottish paper £5 and £10 notes, which were issued by Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland, were also replaced by polymer versions in 2017 and 2018 respectively. It's now at the discretion of retailers and service providers as to whether to accept them, but they don't have to. So here's what to do with these old notes:

  • Your bank may swap or deposit old paper notes. Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland will accept deposits from their customers of old paper notes issued by any Scottish bank. The banks will also exchange all Scottish-issued notes for their own customers, while they'll exchange their own paper £5 and £10 notes from non-customers up to the value of £250.

  • The Post Office will deposit old Scottish paper notes into your bank account, which you can then withdraw. To do this, your bank will need to be signed up to receive cash deposits via the Post Office. You can check this on the Post Office website, although many major providers are signed up. You can't, however, do a direct cash swap at a post office. The Post Office told us this is a service it provides out of choice across all of its branches, but it's not something it has to do.

How to make Northern Irish-issued notes spendable again

Northern Irish paper £5 and £10 notes, which were issued by Bank of Ireland, Northern Bank Limited (which trades as Danske Bank), AIB Group (previously trading as First Trust Bank) and NatWest Bank (which trades as Ulster Bank), were replaced by polymer versions in 2019. Again, it's at the discretion of retailers and service providers as to whether to accept them now, but they don't have to. So here's what to do with them:

  • Your bank may swap or deposit old paper notes. Both Bank of Ireland and Northern Bank Limited will exchange and deposit notes issued by any Northern Irish bank. We've asked AIB Group and NatWest Bank for their position and we'll update this story when we know more.  

  • The Post Office will deposit old Northern Irish paper notes into your bank account, which you can then withdraw. To do this, your bank will need to be signed up to receive cash deposits via the Post Office. You can check this on the Post Office website, although many major providers are signed up. You can't, however, do a direct cash swap at a post office. The Post Office told us this is a service it provides out of choice across all of its branches, but it's not something it has to do.

Paper £20 and £50 notes can still be spent across the UK – but most will be withdrawn next year

New Bank of England polymer versions of the £20 and £50 notes are now in circulation, with the paper versions due to cease to be legal tender after 30 September 2022. The Bank of England says there are 510 million paper £20 notes and 341 million paper £50 notes still in circulation.

As paper Bank of England £20 and £50 notes are still legal tender there's less urgency for you to get rid of them, although as outlined above, banks legally have to swap them for you until they lose their legal tender status, so you might want to make a note to do so ahead of the 30 September 2022 deadline.

Elsewhere around the UK, Scotland will withdraw its Scottish-issued paper £20 and £50 notes at the same time as England, although it appears a deadline has yet to be set for the withdrawal of Northern Irish-issued paper £20 and £50 notes.

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