Consumers in UK are racing to exchange their old paper banknotes for new plastic versions, just over a fortnight before they cease to be legal tender at the end of September.
The Bank of England has warned people to expect long queues at its headquarters as they try to swap paper £20 and £50 notes. It has reassured customers that there is no deadline for exchanging the notes. However, the fact that they will no longer be accepted in shops or by businesses has led to a rush to exchange them.
“There will be long queues and you may encounter waiting times in excess of an hour,” the Bank warned. “We would ask that you kindly consider the long wait times when travelling to the Bank to undertake an in-person exchange.”
The Bank has suggested that customers who do not need to use the paper money immediately can send their old banknotes to its offices by post. Holders of old paper banknotes, including those based outside the UK, have been contacting the Bank on social media to ask whether they will be left with worthless currency.
While the majority of paper £20 and £50 banknotes in circulation have already been replaced with the new polymer version, more than £6bn worth of paper £20 notes – featuring the economist Adam Smith – remain in circulation, along with more than £8bn of paper £50 notes – featuring the entrepreneur Matthew Boulton and the engineer James Watt.
After the death of the Queen, the nation’s coins and banknotes will in time be replaced with versions featuring the head of King Charles. However, the process is expected to take at least two years, and probably longer for the coins.