How to exchange your old British fivers

Paper £5 notes can’t be used legally any more. If you’ve got a stash of them at home or hidden in a UK-trip wallet, here’s how to exchange them.

Front and back of the new £5 note

If you have been living overseas for more than a few months, and regularly use sterling, you may not have noticed that British £5 notes have changed. The face of Elizabeth Fry, the Quaker prison reformer, has gone and has been replaced by Sir Winston Churchill. But there’s far more to the change than a great name and face swap.

The new fivers are made of a plastic polymer and have a whole host of security features. Paper £5 notes were withdrawn from circulation as of 5 May 2017. The only £5 note that is now legal tender is the polymer £5 featuring Sir Winston Churchill. Read more about the new fiver and how it was developed here.

Most importantly, if you have a stash of paper fivers at home, you can no longer use them in shops, and most banks won’t accept them either. Your own branch of your bank in the UK may swap them for the crispy (somewhat unpopular) polymer version, but your best bet is to return them to the Bank of England. Genuine Bank of England banknotes that have been withdrawn from circulation retain their face value for all time.

The old (top) and the new British fiver compared

You can make the exchange at the Bank of England in person or by post. To make the exchange by post, download the Bank of England’s exchange form (printable pdf). Once the bank receives your old notes they will then credit you with the equivalent value, either by BACS payment to a UK bank account, by cash (only for UK residents exchanging less than £50) or by overseas transfer (paid in sterling).

On 18 July, the Bank of England will mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, by unveiling the new £10 note featuring the renowned writer. The event will take place at Winchester Cathedral, where Austen was buried in 1817.

Are your old or new fivers worth anything?

When the new polymer fivers were released there was a flurry of selling activity on various websites, as people flocked to flog their £5 with low serial numbers. (The Queen received the first polymer fiver with a serial number of AA01 000001.) The AK47 serial number has also been described as collectible because of its association with the Kalashnikov gun. Old fivers, with unusual, low or the last serial numbers may also have higher than face value. The website has a good guide to which coins and notes may have collectable value.