The Daily Telegraph

Rush to return banknotes as paper is replaced by plastic

- By Tim Wallace

CONSUMERS are scrambling to replace their paper banknotes with new plastic cash before their old money loses its status as legal tender at the end of this month.

The Bank of England said its head office in Threadneed­le Street is facing long queues as holders of ageing £20s and £50s line up to swap the notes before Sept 30.

Warning of waiting times of more than an hour that mean customers arriving after 2pm may not be served, a spokesman said: “There will be long queues. We would ask that you kindly consider the long wait times when travelling to the Bank to undertake an in-person exchange.”

As an alternativ­e, Threadneed­le Street suggests customers send banknotes by post for exchange instead of bringing them into the institutio­n.

New plastic £20 notes featuring a picture of the artist JMW Turner came into circulatio­n in February 2020, while polymer £50s have been available since June last year.

The highest value notes feature an image of Alan Turing, famed for his code breaking work at Bletchley Park in the Second World War. They replace the purple £20 featuring the economist Adam Smith, which was first issued in 2007. The old £50 came out in 2011 and bears the faces of Matthew Boulton and James Watt, who helped power the industrial revolution.

This changeover of notes is long in the planning and is unrelated to the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The polymer banknotes bearing her image will continue to be legal tender, while at an as-yet undetermin­ed point in the future new notes will be issued with the face of King Charles. Both can remain in circulatio­n simultaneo­usly.

Although the paper banknotes will no longer be legal tender after the end of this month, they can still be exchanged at the Bank in future, meaning there is no urgent need to queue up.

It is more than 70 years since the late Queen came to the throne, meaning most people in Britain have no memory of a change in monarch, or the procedures for updating the currency and using money with the face of a deceased sovereign. It was five years into Elizabeth’s reign before the Bank of England issued notes with a new design, and it was only in 1960 that it printed any bearing her face.

There was a wholesale review of the currency in 1971, when decimalisa­tion required the replacemen­t of all previous notes and coins – some of which had been in circulatio­n for decades and featured a range of previous monarchs.

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