Banknotes of King Charles III come into circulation

Image caption, The portrait is the only change to existing banknotes

  • Author, Kevin Peachey
  • Role, Cost of Living Correspondent

New banknotes bearing the portrait of King Charles III have now entered circulation, but it may be some time before they are commonly found in wallets and handbags.

The new Bank of England notes will gradually replace the damaged notes, or will be issued as demand increases.

The king is only the second monarch to appear on these banknotes, with Queen Elizabeth II appearing for the first time in 1960.

Shoppers can still use the circulating £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes featuring the late Queen’s portrait.

The reverse of the Bank of England’s current banknotes, which depict Sir Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, JMW Turner and Alan Turing in ascending order, is unchanged. Banknotes issued in Scotland and Northern Ireland feature other images, and not the monarch.

Image caption, The first banknotes were printed months ago, ready for the start date

The first new banknotes were printed last year, with the long lead time allowing automated machines that accept cash to be updated to recognize the new designs. The portrait of the King is based on a photo from 2013.

In April last year, the BBC was given exclusive access to the highly secure site where the banknotes are produced.

Collectors look for banknotes that are as close as possible to the serial number 00001.

Image caption, The first of the new banknotes were presented to the King by Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey and Chief Cashier Sarah John

While the King appears on the banknotes, cash may disappear from our lives.

“This is a historic moment as it is the first time we have changed the government bond on our banknotes,” said Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey.

“We know that cash is important to many people, and we aim to provide banknotes for as long as the public demands them.”

But a survey by Link, the UK’s cash and ATM network, found that almost half (48%) of respondents said they expected a cashless society in their lifetime.

However, the same proportion said this would be problematic, and 71% of respondents said they were still dependent on cash to some extent.

Yet figures from consumer association Which? found that 6,000 bank branches had closed in the past nine years, leaving many with no branches at all and limited access to cash.

Fifty of them now have banking centers – shared premises, often run by the post office – where customers of any bank can withdraw and deposit cash, and where community workers from different banks visit once a week.

One of the most unusual is in the Cornish port town of Looe, a county with rich ties to King Charles.

Image caption, The banking center in Looe is located in one of the most picturesque spots in the country

The hub is located behind a café and heritage center and beneath a top restaurant, where the entrance to a climbing wall used to be.

“People can come and withdraw money, they can deposit money, they can deposit checks, we give change to local businesses,” said Debbie Young, a manager at the hub.

Image caption, Debbie Young says the hub serves a cross-section of the local community

“People come to pay their bills and top up their gas and electricity.”

With the last bank closing 18 months ago, the hub is a lifeline, said Ange Harrison, who manages the coffee shop for the hub.

Image caption, Ange Harrison says spotty internet and fear of scams mean the hub and cash are needed

“Obviously you can put your money in the bank straight away, you don’t have to worry about having cash at home,” says Mrs Harrison, a former fishmonger who has lived in Looe all her life.

‘All businesses in the city must use it. You know the old saying: If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it.’

That also applied to cash, and she said people were curious about the new banknotes with the king on them.

It will be a slow change for our change, but there are still questions about the longer-term future of banknotes and coins.

Where the statue of the king can now be seen

  • Coins December 2022: Millions of 50 cent coins with the image of the king entered circulation. Other new coin designs, such as a bee on the pound coin, were introduced in late 2023.
  • Stamps March 2023: The first King Charles stamps were issued by Royal Mail as part of a special set. The following month the new regular first and second class stamps were issued, showing the king without a crown.
  • Passports July 2023: British passports in the name of “His Majesty” instead of “Her Majesty” are issued.
  • Official portrait January 2024: Public buildings, such as town halls and courts, were presented with an official photograph of the monarch, taken at Windsor Castle.
  • Tudor Crown February 2024: King Charles’s favorite crown design was introduced in places such as the gov.uk website and official buildings.
  • Banknotes June 2024: The Bank of England issues £5, £10, £20 and £50 banknotes with the King’s portrait, based on a photograph taken in 2013
  • Letterboxes: Letterboxes are only replaced if they are damaged or require extensive repairs, meaning examples from Queen Victoria’s reign still exist. This seems likely to be one of the public symbols that changes more slowly.