Bank of England chief hails “historic moment” as King Charles notes enter circulation

No need to exchange older notes with Queen’s head, says bank

A new Bank of England £5 note held in hands.
Banknotes carrying a portrait of King Charles III will be issued for the first time on Wednesday. (Bank of England/Bank of England/PA Wire)

Banknotes featuring the portrait of King Charles are being issued from Wednesday, marking the first time that the British sovereign has been changed on the Bank of England’s notes.

The new banknotes will co-circulate alongside those featuring Queen Elizabeth II.

The portrait of Charles will appear on all four banknotes – the £5, £10, £20 and £50 – with no other alterations to the existing designs.

However, people may only start to see the new notes appear in their change very gradually.

There are more than 4.6 billion Bank of England notes in circulation, worth about £82 billion.

But in order to minimise the environmental and financial impact of the change, new notes will only be printed to replace those that are worn, and to meet any overall increase in demand.

AIB (formerly First Trust) has been dispensing Bank of England notes in Northern Ireland since February 2019, when it ceased issuing its own banknotes.

Non-bank aligned ATMs and Post Office branches also regularly dispense Bank of England notes in the north.

Bank of Ireland, Danske Bank and Ulster Bank continue to issue their own banknotes.

The portrait of King Charles will appear on existing designs of all four Bank of England notes (£5, £10, £20 and £50), with no other changes to the existing designs.
The portrait of King Charles will appear on existing designs of all four Bank of England notes (£5, £10, £20 and £50), with no other changes to the existing designs. (Bank of England/Bank of England/PA Wire)

“This is a historic moment, as it’s the first time we’ve changed the sovereign on our notes,” said Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey.

“We know that cash is important for many people, and we are committed to providing banknotes for as long as the public demand them. Bringing these new notes into circulation is a demonstration of that commitment.”

Although the Bank of England started to produce banknotes in the 17th century, Queen Elizabeth II had been the only British monarch to appear on its banknotes.

Her portrait was first used in 1960 on £1 notes.

The Queen Elizabeth II notes will remain legal tender and the Bank of England said there is no need to exchange them.

Graham Mott, director of strategy at ATM and cash access network Link, said: “While more people are paying for things online or using contactless cards, cash use remains popular, with over 70% of adults spending cash at least once a fortnight.

“As King Charles III banknotes begin to enter circulation, they will steadily be available through all cash machines as worn notes are withdrawn.”

A recent survey for Link indicated that nearly half (48%) of people expect to see a cashless society in their lifetime.

In 2023, legislation was passed as part of the Financial Services and Markets Act, to protect access to cash.