I Never Thought Money Expired. I Was Wrong

Way back when I thought my first visit to a country would be my last visit (because trips are expensive and I have so many places to go and yadda yadda yadda), I would try and spend every last cent, pence, franc or yen before I left for home. No sense in bringing currency back with me that I wouldn’t have any use for.

It’s only been within the last five years or so that I’ve started to keep whatever left over cash I had when going home. I’ll have a need again for euros, yen and particularly pounds. Having money when I step off the plane means I’m not searching for an ATM as the first thing I need to do.

So when packing for my trip to London, I brought my Ziploc bag-o-pounds with me.

I even bragged about it on Facebook:

On our way. I’ll finally be able to spend those GBP that have been sitting in my drawer since our last trip.

To which one of my Anglophile friends commented:

Unless they were pound coins

What????

This led to a conversation about how said friend had to go to the Bank of England to trade in his pound notes for new ones because the ones he had from a previous trip had been withdrawn from circulation. The pound coins he had were too old to exchange so they were just paperweights or nice souvenirs.

The Bank of England even has a website telling how to exchange old banknotes.

The Bank of England counter can have long queues and waiting times maybe up to an hour. Unless you require the banknotes immediately we would suggest sending your banknotes via post.

Our counter at the Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London, EC2R 8AH is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. It is closed at the weekend and on bank holidays.

You may need to provide two original identity (ID) documents (one photo ID and one proof of address) for any exchange (mandatory for any exchange of £700 or more). To check what we accept please see ‘Identification we accept’ below.

I crossed my fingers and hoped that the money I had was not on the list. It’s quite an exhaustive list on the Bank of England website.

See all the banknotes that the Bank of England and HM Treasury have issued and then withdrawn, going back to 1694.

As it turns out, the 10 pound note I had with me was on the withdrawn list. It was last issued in 2016 and ceased to be legal tender on 1 March 2018.

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I followed all of the rules to reproduce images of currency, including not distorting the image of the Queen in any way.

The one pound coins I have with me are also the old versions. They were replaced with a new 12 sided coin on 28 March 2017. There was a 6 month period where both coins were in circulation at the same time  The round £1 coin lost its legal tender status at midnight on 15 October 2017. The Royal Mint does say that most banks in the UK will still allow you to deposit the old coins into your account or they can be donated to charity.

Considering that we have bills and coins in circulation in the U.S. for decades, it seems so strange to print a bill or mint a coin and then make it obsolete less than two years later.

So if you have any old currency in your house, better to check to make sure it hasn’t expired before your next trip or you might get a strange look at the store.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

10 thoughts on “I Never Thought Money Expired. I Was Wrong”

  1. To my knowledge US bills are always legal tender here in the USA. However I do know that abroad, most money changers just want the more recently issued USD bills (in great condition of course)

  2. Only an insolvent government could come up with the idea of money expiring. How next to claim ownership of your future labors?

    1. It’s not the monetary value that expires, you can have the notes exchanged for new ones for free. It’s just that the new ones are (supposedly) harder to counterfeit, thus more secure.

  3. yep, had that happen to me with pounds, swedish kronor. so now i have google alerts for currency changes so i can get them exchanged and not have paper weights or take the really bad exchange rates at one of those money exchanges for old notes.

  4. Actually it seems USA is one of th few countries that uses money that lasts forever. And actually it only lasts forever in the USA. Try using older bills or bills that are less than perfect in Ecuador or Cambodia where USA bills are their legal form of tender. The USA is wayyyyyyyy behind other countries in having bills they help for example people who are sight challenged. Many countries have a different color and size for each denomination which can make it easier for everyone.

  5. US currency seems so strange to me. Ancient notes which are dilapidated, very easy to counterfeit and in denominations not fit for this day and age.

    And @BillyBob, UK currency is still exchangeable, it’s just that old and insecure versions are not in circulation. Given debt levels I would suggest that the US and the UK are in a similar place regarding insolvency.

  6. This is exaclty what I learned also past weekend when I went for a citytrip to London. I had some older bills from previous trips that I took along for this journey, and wanted to pay my meal. There they told my that they could not accept the bills and I should go to the bank to have them changed. (on a sunday…)
    I had never heard of this kind of method to enforce new bills. Living in the Euro zone, we are used that new versions are printed and gradually the older versions are taken out of circulation.

  7. I visited Tanzania in 2001. I returned in 2005, and brought about $2 worth of Tanzanian shillings with me. I was proud to be so organized as I tried to buy an excellent Kilimanjaro beer at the airport, but was told my money was no longer legal tender. I paid $4 US instead. . .

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