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Troubles with"old" money

My son was just in London and while he was there he had some currancy issues. First, his Grandpapa gave him some ££ to use that he had from a few years ago. Well- apparently they were more than 3 years old and no longer usable as viable money. Whoops! Although my son was told THE BANK OF ENGLAND would exchange them he was unable to get there while on tour.
Will our exchanges here in the States be able to cash these ££s?
The OTHER $ trouble came with his credit card and ATM withdrawal. He was not given a pin with his card- YOU NEED ONE. Don't leave home with out one if you intend to withdrawal with a credit card. Luckily his debit card worked but had a daily limit.
Thanks for any input on the ££ exchange.

Posted by
380 posts

When I was in London about five years ago, I went to spend a 5-pound note I had brought from home. Turns out it was like 25 years old from when I was there in the 80s, and no one would take it! I was able to stop into a bank and they changed it for me, but not before having a good laugh.

Unfortunately you'll have to give the pound notes to someone who is going to the UK--there's no way to change them here in the US.

Posted by
23265 posts

You always need a pin number IF using an ATM. However, it is not a good idea to use a credit card to withdraw money at an ATM because of all the fees that instantly kick in when the credit card is used.

British money changes regularly and there's usually only a six month crossover period before the old money becomes invalid. Apparently it's all part of detering forgeries.

The old five pound notes (the paper ones) have just gone out of use. The old pound coins (the round ones) will follow shortly. We're getting new plastic ten pound notes in the autumn so expect the old paper tenners to go out of use in the spring next year.

Yes, only the Bank of England will change them once they've become invalid.

Posted by
4842 posts

Certain denominations were replaced, and ceased being legal tender a while ago. I believe the same thing is going to occur with another bill this year. I doubt that you'll find a place in the US that will exchange them if they're that old.

Fortunately for Rick Steves readers and tour users, the need to know the PIN associated with each credit card is very well known.

But why would your son want to use his credit card to obtain cash from an ATM (except in an emergency) ???? That's the worst thing you can do, given the exorbitant interest rates you would incur. The debit card is what you need to use for cash withdrawals, and yes, there's a daily withdrawal limit, just like at home (although the European ATM may have a lower daily limit) .

Posted by
5326 posts

Try selling it on Ebay/elsewhere. Even UK banks and other financial institutions won't these days exchange notes for non customers, certainly not for very old designs so I can't see USA ones being interested, although if there is something local you can give it a go I suppose.

You can do it by post with the Bank of England, but one way or another I would guess postage and fees would eat into it as they will only make a bank transfer or issue a cheque in sterling (and international transfers to US banks are a bit of a difficulty sometimes anyway). The form is here and the address is:

Department NEX
Bank of England
Threadneedle Street
London
EC2R 8AH 

Posted by
16231 posts

In case it is not noticed in the above posts, next up to become obsolete are the £1 coins and the £10 notes.

I gave mine from our last trip (a year ago) to a friend who is there now, as we will not be back in the UK before their withdrawal date (this September, I believe).

Posted by
5326 posts

Also worth adding that the coins really do become valueless (apart from collectors') unlike the notes.

Posted by
9420 posts

Re: ATM cash withdrawal limit... if you call your bank before leaving on a trip you can request that the daily limit be raised. I've never had a problem with my bank raising the daily amount.

Posted by
15803 posts

Right. I have my daily ATM withdrawal limit raised every time we travel abroad. That doesn't mean that every ATM machine will dispense that amount, though. Some machines are set to max. limits of, say, 200 euros at a time.

But yes, any card that works in an ATM machine must have a PIN, and that PIN should be 4 digits for use in Europe (unless that has changed). Both my debit/ATM card and credit card have PINs. I'm sure your son's card has one too and he overlooked it on the paperwork sent with it or didn't call and set one of his choosing. But no, we never use our credit cards for withdrawing cash; only our debit/ATM cards.

Posted by
3517 posts

No bank or currency exchange in the US will deal with invalid/outdated/devalued money. If they did, then they would be stuck with the worthless paper.

Cash advances with a credit card should be a last resort. First of all, the amount available as cash is usually only a small slice of the total credit limit on the card. And the fees -- some cards have excessive fees for cash advances. Get the limit on the debit card increased, most banks will do it without difficulty. You still might have to do multiple transactions at the ATM because a lot of ATMs have lower limits per transaction than the limit for the card.

A credit card PIN can be useful for making purchases at unmanned kiosks like for train tickets. The card issuers will tell you the PIN turns any transaction into a cash advance, but that is not true unless the transaction results in cash being given to you as part of that transaction. You absolutely will not be charged as a cash advance for purchase made where a PIN is required.

Posted by
3752 posts

You may be able to sell the pounds that your son couldn't use to a dealer who sells old coins and currency. You may find a listing or two in the yellow pages of the phone book. Or if the value is not very great, inquire among your friends whether any of their kids or grandkids have a coin and money collection, and give them away. Or the next time you, your son or a family member is in England, donate these pounds to a museum (the box is always near the front door or reception desk) or a cathedral or church. I would imagine they have an arrangement/account with the Bank of England to accept these for deposit. They certainly must receive a wide variety of coins and currency, some old, some foreign in their donations. They most certainly would have a way to deal with old currency.

Posted by
3941 posts

Just a question...is the UK the only place that will not let you use old money? I mean, if I found an old $5 from 1995 here in Canada, I can still use it...my husband had an old $100 from the 80's tucked away, but if he wanted to spend it, there wouldn't be an issue, I regularly use $1 coins from 1990's...just curious why this is the norm in the UK? We still get old paper bills every once in awhile (we've gone over to polymer the last 5 or so years)...and I always try to spend it instead of putting it in the bank so it can keep circulating instead of being shredded... ;)

Posted by
4042 posts

Regarding outdated currency, countries using the Euro all had to confront what to do with their previous paper money.. Several years later I found one bank in Berlin that still dealt with the old mark and exchanged my small cache. I know the situation in Paris was similar with the old franc where only one, or a few, outlets linked to the government wanted to bother. PS: Nobody wants Canada's obsolete $1 and $2 bills either, and maybe not any of our money the way the exchange rate has plunged.
I want to reiterate the warning about withdrawing cash from an ATM on a credit card. The ATM card gives you money from your own account; a credit card draws a cash advance -- that's a loan, and the rate of interest is very high, well over 20 per cent on my main card.

Posted by
9420 posts

Nicole P, I think what Jane said above is the reason... "Apparently it's all part of detering forgeries."

Posted by
16231 posts

So what shall I do with my Canadian pennies? No one in Canada will take them!

Posted by
3517 posts

Apparently you can spend them in the US. I have received over 100 Canadian pennies in change in Colorado over the past couple months. I turn right around and spend them at the next spot I can. No one seems to mind.

There are many countries around the world that change money and render the previous cash worthless. It happens when the ruler changes and they put a picture of the current ruler on their money. It happens when money gets devalued (dropping zeros off the end of the bills). And of course it happens more and more to combat forgeries.

The US is one of the few countries in the world where any paper money ever printed by the government is still useable at its face value. Of course if you have a very old US dollar bill, it can be worth thousands of dollars to a collector and you would be a fool if you spent it at the grocery store. :-)

Posted by
5326 posts

If you allow obsolete currency to continue to circulate the forger has a relatively easy job as all you have to do is produce the easily forged old designs and artificially age them.

The USA kept basically the same design with minor variations for over 50 years and the culture of changing designs and then retiring the older ones hasn't been established, if it ever will be.

Some countries do make the old designs of banknotes completely worthless after a set number of years, although every Bank of England note back to 1694 is worth at least what it says it is. The form I referred to above for example contains a line for 10/- notes that haven't been produced since 1969.

Posted by
216 posts

There are signs in many places about the paper £5 notes not being legal tender. Don't take them as change as people will try to pawn the off on tourists. I was told that any bank would take them but never had to try.

Posted by
6525 posts

The Bank of England website tells you how to exchange the old bills for new ones. Essentially, you need to go to it in person. Sorry, no branch locations, only the one place in London.