£20 note guide

With reports from retailers that more counterfeit £20 notes are in circulation, it’s important to know what to look for when spotting a fraudulent note.

The £20 polymer note entered circulation on 20 February 2020 and 30 September 2022 is the last day consumers can use paper £20 and £50 notes.

To help avoid being tricked by fake notes, the Bank of England has published a guide to spotting counterfeit £20 notes. It warns that people trying to use counterfeit banknotes will often try to buy a low-value item using a high-value note such as a £20 note so they can get away with your stock and money from your till.

If you’ve only got a short amount of time to make the decision, there are two key security features to prioritise:

- The Hologram image will change from ‘Twenty to ‘Pounds’ when the note is tilted

- See-through windows: Check that the foil on the metallic image on the main window is blue and gold at the front of the note and silver on the back. Also look for a smaller window in the bottom corner of the note.

If you have more time but are still unsure, there are more security features you can check:

- A portrait of the Queen is printed on the window with ’£20 Bank of England’ printed twice around the edge

- A silver foil patch contains a 3D image of the coronation crown. You will find this above the main see-through window on the front of the note

- A round, purple foil patch contains the letter ‘T’. You will find this on the back of the note, directly behind the silver crown on the front of the note

- The note is printed on polymer, which is a thin and flexible plastic material. On the front of the note, you can feel raised print. For example, on the words ‘Bank of England’ and in the bottom right corner, over the smaller window

- The printed lines and colours on the note are sharp, clear and free from smudges or blurred edges. If you use a magnifying glass, you will see the value of the note written in small letters and numbers below the Queen’s portrait

- Under a good quality ultra-violet light, the number ‘20’ appears in bright red and green on the front of the note, against a duller background

While not a security feature, on the front of the note (the side with raised print), there are three clusters of raised dots in the top left hand corner to help blind and partially sighted people identify the value of the note.

How else can I check a £20 note?

The Bank of England recommends using a UV lamp for checking the fluorescent features on all its notes. It advises to use one that emits light at around 365 nanometres rather than LED versions.

It also warns that detector pens don’t spot counterfeits printed on polymer. They work by reacting with the starch present in ‘normal’ paper so are ineffective on polymer.

What to do if you receive a counterfeit £20 note?

The Bank of England advises that if the counterfeit note has been discovered after the customer has left, take it to your bank or the police.

If the customer is still on the premises and the staff member doesn’t feel at risk, they are advised to keep the note, provide the customer with a receipt and ask for another form of payment – inform the customer that if the note is found to be genuine, they will be reimbursed, and take the note to a bank or the police.

If the staff member does feel at risk, refuse the note and ask for another form of payment, and contact the police when it is safe to do so.