Paper £50 notes will soon be replaced with a new polymer version, the Bank of England has confirmed.
This will be the final denomination to get the plastic makeover, after the paper £10 note was withdrawn earlier in March, and the £5 was replaced in May 2017.
It’s previously been announced that paper £20 notes will be replaced in 2020.
Which? explains what the new notes will mean for you.
Why is the paper £50 note being withdrawn?
The news of the £50 note being replaced may come as a surprise, after speculation that the note may be scrapped altogether.
A Treasury review in March said the notes were ‘rarely used’ for normal purchases, and suffered from a public association with criminals, money laundering and tax evasion. Changing the notes to polymer presents a possible solution, as they are reportedly safer and more difficult to counterfeit than the paper versions.
The Bank of England says plastic notes are also cleaner and stronger, lasting 2.5 times longer than paper notes, making them more environmentally friendly.
Who will be featured on the new notes?
The Bank of England will soon be calling for nominations from the public to suggest potential characters to appear on the new note.
The current £50 notes feature Matthew Boulton and James Watt – manufacturers of Boulton & Watt steam engines who worked with the Royal Mint.
A wider scope of characters have been featured on more recent notes. Jane Austen was chosen for the plastic £10 notes following a campaign to feature women other than the Queen on English notes. JMW Turner has been selected for the forthcoming £20 note, after 30,000 people nominated famous visual artists.
- Find out more: How to spot a valuable banknote
When will the new £50 be released?
There isn’t a set date for the new polymer £50 notes yet, but the likelihood is you’ll be waiting at least a couple of years.
The new £20 notes will be launched in 2020, and the £50 notes will be next in line.
Once the new notes are out, it’s worth checking the serial number – if it has a low number, it could be popular with collectors and fetch a premium. When the plastic £10 notes came out, those with the prefix AA01 were highly valued, with one selling for £7,200 at auction.
What should I do with my old £50 notes?
As the release of the new notes won’t happen for a while yet, you’re free to spend paper £50 notes as you wish, and don’t need to do anything.
Once the release date for the new £50 notes is announced, the Bank of England will issue a deadline for when all paper £50 will no longer be accepted as legal tender.
But even after that date, many banks and post offices are likely to swap out the notes for new versions for you. Plus, the Bank of England guarantees every note it has ever issued, so will honour all withdrawn notes, no matter how old.
Note that any £50 notes featuring Sir John Houblon were withdrawn from legal currency on 30 April 2014. If you happen to find any of them you won’t be able to use them in shops, but you can get notes exchanged by the Bank of England either by visiting its London premises or by post.
- Find out more: how to cash in old paper notes