READER LETTER OF THE WEEK
YOUR MONEY: What to do with old, unused UK currency
You've discovered a wad of pound notes that are definitely out of date. Can you still use them?
In preparation for my first trip to the UK since before Covid, I found some bank notes worth £200 with my passport. Apparently new ones have been released since I got them, but I would hate to not be able to use them when I’m there for two weeks. Can I swap the old notes for ones that are usable?
No-one wants to let valuable sterling go to waste, and £200 could almost get you a house in South Africa. If you have £20 and £50 notes in the mix, they were discontinued in September 2022; £5 notes were upgraded in 2017 and £10 notes in 2018. So there’s a chance that all the notes you have need to be swapped.
Luckily the Bank of England has made this moderately easy to do, even if you don’t have a UK bank account (which we guess is the case). If you’re in London, you could chance it and go straight to the actual Bank of England in Threadneedle Street and swap the notes there. This has some caveats though, the most important of which is timing. The bank is only open from 9.30am to 3pm daily during the week and cautions that if you try to change notes after noon, you might not be done queuing before closing time.
That said, if you’ve got notes worth more than £300, have a South African bank account and can present photo ID and proof of address in South Africa (a recent utility bill, telephone bill or credit card bill that features your address, for example) this is your best bet. The Bank of England will require you to fill in a form and submit these documents. It will then either give you cash there and then, or deposit the equivalent foreign exchange into your bank account if it accepts sterling payments.
Your other option is to use the Post Office. There are 30 branches across the UK that will swap notes, and at these all you need to present is your photo ID. You can’t do this if you have more than £300 to swap, or have notes that predate the £5 featuring Elizabeth Fry, the £10 featuring Charles Darwin, the £20 featuring Adam Smith or the £50 featuring James Watt and Matthew Boulton. The easiest way to find a participating branch is to go to the Post Office website and enter the postcode of where you’re staying in the branch finder. You’ll find that here.
A reader writes: It’s time to adjust my medical aid; is there any place I can go to that compares all the options across all the medical aids? Also, why can’t I downgrade at any time, not only once a year?
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