How long do bank notes stay in circulation? © Getty Images

How long do bank notes stay in circulation?

The elusive £50 note has the longest lifespan of all, but with the introduction of new polymer notes, how long did our paper money circulate on average?

Asked by: Christopher Able, by email


Bank notes last for anything between a year – for the 250 million or so £5 notes in circulation – to over five years for the rarely seen (at least by the Focus team) £50 note, of which around 90 million are doing the rounds. They generally end up torn, put through the washing machine or chewed by pets. The good news is that the phrase, “I promise to pay the bearer on demand” printed on each note signed by the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England isn’t just for show. Each year around £40m is paid out to people who send their damaged notes to the Bank of England’s office in Leeds along with a claim form available here.


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