When do old £20 notes expire and who is on the new one?

Now we mainly use the new ones, does that mean old £20 notes have expired?

A close up of old £20 notes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With the old £20 notes that we all knew replaced earlier this year, everyone has been wondering when the classic paper notes expire so they can spend or exchange them in time. 

In February 2020, the new plastic polymer £20 notes were issued by the Bank of England. Much like when new notes have been created in the past, there was quickly a scramble to find out when the old ones expire because once they're out of circulation, you can't use them anymore.

Luckily though, old money notes don’t just expire out of the blue. The Bank of England, who issues new currency to England, always gives six months notice and that period has not been announced yet.

Over the last four years, much of British currency has been withdrawn and replaced by new polymer notes. In 2016, people were given a deadline to spend old £5 bank notes before they went out of circulation. Then a year later, the £10 note went out of circulation and people were encouraged to spend the paper note as soon as possible.

So when do the old £20 notes expire and what do you do if you still got some in your wallet?

When do the old £20 notes expire?

The Bank of England currently hasn’t said when old £20 notes will expire - this means that you can still use old £20 notes if you have any.

Even though the new polymer £20 are also now available and can be withdrawn from cash machines, the old, paper £20 notes can still be used alongside the new ones for the time being.

The Bank of England have said: "Don’t worry, you can still use the paper £20 note for now. We’ll give you 6 months’ notice of the date you’ll no longer be able to use the paper £20."

This means that when the Bank of England does announce the date that the old £20 notes will expire, you will still have plenty of time to spend any paper notes you have before the deadline. 

Can I exchange my old £20 for a new one?

According to the Bank of England, the quickest way to exchange your £20 is to deposit them at the bank.

You can also exchange withdrawn currency by post with the bank. To do this as an individual (rather than a business), you have to fill out a banknote change application form and send it to the Bank of England, along with copies of your ID and proof of address.

Can I still use the old £20 note?

As for the time being, the paper £20 notes will be used alongside the plastic ones, the best thing to do with old £20 is to spend them as you normally would.

They're certainly still valid and it's the best way to take them out of circulation. Gradually over time, they will stop circulating as people spend them and businesses deposit them into banks, who then permanently remove them from circulation.

During the current health crisis however, many shops are not accepting cash payments as they are worried about the amount of time that Covid-19 can survive on the surface of the money - so they are taking contactless card payments instead.

In this case, you might be better to wait until banks resume their normal service of trading in old bank notes for new ones.

Closeup shot of a unrecognizable person giving a barman a credit card as payment inside of a restaurant

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When were the old £20 notes first issued?

The old £20 notes were first issued in 2007, so they have been in circulation for 13 years.

Sarah John, the Bank of England’s current Chief Cashier has said, “Moving the £20 note to polymer marks a major step forward in our fight against counterfeiting. I am very grateful to everyone across the cash industry who has made this transition possible and I hope the public enjoys using their new Turner £20s.”

You may wonder what "Turner" refers to. More on that later.

What's different about the new £20 note?

Good question. Just like how Jane Austen appeared on the new £10 note, replacing Charles Darwin, there are some design and illustration differences between the old and new £20 notes.

The old paper £20 features the so-called father of modern economics, Adam Smith. There are also images of factory workers on the back of the note and a quote from one of Adam Smith’s most famous works.

image of Adam Smith, the so-called father of modern economics

The new £20 note was first issued on February 20 2020. It’s slightly smaller than the paper note and is made of a polymer (plastic) material that is difficult to rip or tear.

Instead of Adam Smith the new £20 note features distinguished English artist, JMW Turner. One of his most famous paintings, The Fighting Temeraire features as artwork replacing the factory workers on the back of the note. You’ll also notice a quote from Turner - “light is therefore colour” - and a signature, which is identifiable on many of his paintings.

This only goes for money distributed by the Bank of England however, the Bank of Scotland for example will distribute their own money and therefore, their own designs. While Winston Churchill appears on the current English £5 note, Nan Shepherd became the new face of the £5 Scottish bank note in 2016.

Who else has appeared on the £20 note?

When do old £20 notes expire

JMW Turner isn't the first artist to appear on the £20 note, however. A mixture of economists and artists of various kinds have appeared on the £20 note since it was first introduced.

Although the £20 note has been in existence since 1725, it was taken out of circulation in 1943. Then, in 1970 the £20 note as we know it today was introduced to the public featuring none other than William Shakespeare, the famous English playwright.

From 1970 to 1991 Shakespeare appeared on the £20 note. He was replaced by an image of the scientist Michael Faraday, who was famous for his work on magnetic fields, induction and was considered a great influence on Albert Einstein.

Famous English composer, Edward Elgar then appeared on the note from 1999 to 2007. He was well known during the 19th century for works like The Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, along with two full symphonies. He was replaced as the featured image on the note by the economist Adam Smith in 2007.