Polymer £20 note now in circulation

New polymer £20: security features include two windows and a hologram word change
New polymer £20: security features include two windows and a hologram word change

The Bank of England's new polymer £20 note, printed by De La Rue, has now entered circulation.

Featuring a self-portrait of artist JMW Turner, the new note is available from today (20 February). It has been described as “the most secure Bank of England banknote yet” with two see-through windows and a two-colour foil, which makes it more difficult to counterfeit.

It is printed by security printer De La Rue, which also supplied 25% of the polymer substrate for the first call-off volume alongside 75% from CCL Secure. There will be 2bn of the new notes in circulation, which could stretch around the world seven times laid end-to-end.

The Bank of England sold its printing works to De La Rue in 2003 and has had a supply contract with the security printer since, with a renewed ten-year deal for banknote printing inked in 2015. 

De La Rue has been printing polymer £20 notes since 2018 in readiness for the launch on a propitious date – 20-02-2020. 

The £20 note is by far the biggest note in use by volume, with a whopping 2.006bn in circulation last year. The next largest is the £10 at 1.052bn according to Bank of England figures. 

Launching the note at the Tate Britain gallery in London, Bank of England governor Mark Carney said: “Our banknotes celebrate the UK’s extraordinarily rich and diverse heritage and highlight the contributions of its greatest citizens.

“Turner’s art was transformative. I am delighted that the work of arguably the single most influential British artist of all time will now appear on another two billion works of art – the new £20 notes that people can start using today.”

In collaboration with Snapchat, the Bank of England has developed a digital lens which allows mobile users to interact with the new notes using augmented reality. It will also be the first banknote to feature the signature of the Bank’s new chief cashier Sarah John.

The existing paper £20 notes will remain in use pending six months’ notice from the Bank, after which legal tender status will be withdrawn. 

A new polymer £50 note featuring mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing will enter circulation next year, at which time all of the new Bank of England notes entering circulation will be polymer. 

As the transition of polymer notes and the increase in cashless transactions continues, campaigners from the Access to Cash Review have warned Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the cash system could collapse if he does not take action in his Budget on 11 March to make sure banknotes and coins are preserved for the millions of UK citizens who still depend on them for essential day-to-day transactions.

There were 11bn cash payments in the UK in 2018, but this is forecast to fall to 3.8 billion in 2028.