Should the £50 note be scrapped?

£50There are calls to scrap the £50 note along with high denomination notes in other countries, claiming it would cut financial crime and terrorism. That’s the opinion of a report from Harvard Kennedy School led by Peter Sands, the former Chief Executive of Standard Chartered Bank.

I can see the organised crime argument, but apparently if you have some work done on your house you’re likely to pay the builder or plumber in £50 notes so that they can avoid paying VAT. If you’re the dodgy builder you’re likely to pay your workers in cash to avoid income tax.

I have to say if I ever end up with a £50 note it’s often a pain in the neck to spend it. You either get looked at while the shop assistant holds it up to the light, checks it under ultraviolet, using a pen test and then still gets their boss to OK it before they give you your change.

What ever you do, don’t try to spend a £50 note in one of those infernal automated supermarket checkouts, they only accept fivers, tenners and twenties. The only and only time I tried to insert a £50, the checkout supervisor was very sniffy about going and breaking it into tenners so that I could pay the robot for my purchases.

The big argument for scrapping the £50 note is that in today’s world of instant bank transfers, PayPal and other electronic money transfer services plus mobile enabled card readers, in general the average person has no need to make large cash transactions.

On a more practical note I wouldn’t miss the £50 note simply because most of the time it’s just too inconvenient to wait while the intended recipient makes sure it’s not a fake. Give me a couple of twenties and a tenner any day.