How to Exchange Old British Pounds From the U.S.

how to convert old british pounds from the US

My grandmother-in-law passed away several years ago. Among her things were some very old British Pounds. The pounds were from the 1970’s and 1980’s – so old enough to be difficult to cash, but not so old as to be valuable as antiques.  We hung onto them for several years because we didn’t know how to exchange old British Pounds from the US.  But eventually we figured it out and have quite the story to tell.

First Options for Exchanging British Pounds

  1. Try Your Bank

Your bank may allow you to deposit British Pounds at a branch. I visited our local Wells Fargo and they had a book of currency that showed pictures of what the teller was allowed to exchange. Unfortunately, because of the age of our British Pounds, the banker, said they couldn’t help. I asked what to do and she suggested the “airport post office,” but I tried Google instead. (Note I don’t know whether or not your local airport post office exchanges currency, but not something I would want to try).

  1. If You are in England or Traveling to the UK, Visit the Bank of England.

You can show up at the Bank of England in London and change over your currency. If you have a trip to London coming up, it may be worth your time and interest to visit the main bank. But, not all of us have such a trip in our future or want to spend vacation time that way. (If you’re trying to determine where to travel next, here are 9 Unconventional Ways to Plan Your Next International Vacation.)

So if those two options don’t work for you, then what? Here’s how I was able to exchange old british pounds from the United States

How to Exchange Old British Pounds from the U.S.

  1. Download the Form from the Bank of England Website

The Bank of England is the official issuer of British Pounds. Notes specify that the “Bank of England promises to Pay the bearer on demand the sum of”. The form you need can be found on the website here; the specific form is called the “banknote exchanges application form”. 

  1. Fill Out the Form and Make Copies of Relevant Information

To send in the form you will need to provide a photo ID and proof of address. I used a copy of my passport for my ID and driver’s license for proof of address.  The Bank of England will transfer money directly to your account.  I wasn’t sure if this would trigger a wire transfer fee, and I was curious about the process, so I requested a “sterling cheque” be mailed to me. 

  1. Send Your Pounds to the United Kingdom

After you complete the form and gather the required copies of identification, mail your form and the currency to the Bank of England. I’ll admit, it felt a little odd to stuff a bunch of cash in an envelope and just stick it in the mail. But given it was worth nother sitting at home, I had nothing to lose. I went to the post office and used regular mail and it cost about $0.70 to mail at the slowest pace. 

  1. Wait

I had no idea how long it would take to exchange my old British Pounds from the US (or honestly if I would ever get my money back); so I expected to wait months and months. 

  1. Receive Your Cheque In the Mail

Imagine my surprise when just over a month later, we were watching the news and learned the Queen of England had died; then I went to the mailbox that afternoon and I had a letter from the Bank of England. Sure enough, I had a “sterling cheque” in the mail.

  1. Bring Your Sterling Check to the Bank to Exchange and Deposit (If Applicable)

Your check is just the same as currency. So all you need to do is bring it to your local branch and have them deposit it.  They will first exchange it at their rate that day (and be aware that rates are at historic lows right now; so if you are sitting on a lot of pounds, you may just want to wait awhile to try this process). 

letter and cheque from bank of england

To Sum Up

It turns out that exchanging old British money from the United States is relatively easy. It’s just a matter of downloading a form, mailing in your pounds, and waiting for the check to arrive, then depositing it at your bank.