/ Money

Bank notes that are built to last

New fiver

The introduction of new £5 plastic bank notes across the UK is just a few months away. They’re supposed to be difficult to damage and tricky to fake. How do you feel about the new notes?

Winston Churchill famously said: “To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often” and there are a whole host of changes on the new £5 note that bears his face.

The Bank of England’s first £5 plastic banknote was unveiled last week and is supposedly cleaner, safer and stronger – but do we really need these improvements?

Plastic fantastic?

These bank notes will be able to survive a 90°C trip through the washing machine or the bite of a bulldog.

Each note is so much more resistant to dirt and moisture that it will typically last two and a half times longer than a paper note, saving the Bank of England £100m in printing costs over the decade. It also incorporates plenty of new security features, making it far more difficult to counterfeit.

These advantages will also be incorporated into the new £10 and £20 notes being introduced in the future, bringing an end to 320 years of paper money in the UK.

The cost of new money

However, there are suggestions that these new banknotes will cause more problems than they solve.

Business of all sizes will have to upgrade cash-handling hardware, such as vending machines and ATMs. It’s been estimated this will cost the British economy around £236m – almost two and a half times more than the printing savings over the first decade.

The Bank of England also concedes that the new notes can stick together, so shoppers need to be more wary of handing over two notes instead of one.

This sounds like a lot of faff for what is becoming an increasingly cashless society.

Prepare for plastic banknotes

The new £5 note enters circulation on September 13 this year. You can continue using the paper notes until May 2017, after which they will cease to become legal tender. At this point, you’ll need to exchange them at The Bank of England.

A plastic £10 note is expected next summer, with a new £20 note following in 2020.

What are your thoughts on plastic banknotes? Can you see yourself still using cash in 10 years’ time?

Are you a fan of the new £5 plastic banknotes?

Yes (49%, 392 Votes)

Not sure (30%, 240 Votes)

No (21%, 172 Votes)

Total Voters: 804

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Shocked to hear we can only continue using the £5 paper notes until May 2017!!!

You mention the Bank of England, but I have just found out it will be the same up here in Scotland with our fivers.

The way you put it, Joe, it sound like a lot of faff, even if realistically I do see myself still using cash in 10 years’ time.

Plastic or paper, I’m honestly not sure which I prefer, but, due respect to Churchil, don’t we need fewer old white males represented, not more? Another matter altogether, I know, sorry.


I resent the implication about _”old white males ” which is permanently taken up by our advertising media who are composed of the 2/3 % minority groups and are totally opposed to white males .

[Sorry Duncan, your comment has been edited to align with our Community Guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Julia Clark says:
12 June 2016

I don’t think we should have politicians on banknotes.
Concerned about the sticking together issue.


I quite agree Julia most should be strung up as they say in the US . The problem is Churchill is an “icon ” and is credited with “saving ” this country from defeat from Germany . Much as I dont like his politics I did like his drive while in power to get the country geared up for war, appointing Beaverbrook in the mold of Albert Speer ,although I know this started secretly years earlier . It certainly cost him a stroke but anybody coming out with – “we will fight them on the beaches ” etc has my temporary vote as even if I totally disagree with what my country is doing I couldnt betray it and if invaders landed I would defend it. Labour was voted in after the war and the NHS etc got going .


The UK’s first plastic banknote was unveiled last week” . . . err, not so: the UK’s first plastic banknotes have been in use in Scotland for some time. These new fivers are the first Bank of England plastic banknotes and will be legal tender throughout the UK unlike those issued by the Scottish banks.

You can’t have too many security features in banknotes but I had not realised there was a lot of faff as well – that should make them impossible to reproduce illegally.

I hope I shall still be here in ten years’ time and spending cash. There is every prospect that the Queen will still be on the notes in ten years’ time but BoE notes might have been outlawed in Scotland by then. I shall never stop accepting cash in any currency.

I have always found high street banks most obliging in exchanging banknotes after they have lost their legal tender status, as well as coins that have been superseded. A trip to Threadneedle Street is not the only way to update your wallet.

Interestingly, UK postage stamps never lose their currency, although you will need a very big envelope if you want to use up any pre-decimal values. More recent ones ending in a half-penny are still useable if you put two together to make a whole number [e.g. 4 x thirteen-and-a-half + 2 x five-and-a-half for First Class postage].


To add to the complication, although practically it doesn’t seem to matter day today, I found this in Martin Lewis’s website:

True or false? Scottish notes aren’t legal tender.
– Are Scottish bank notes legal tender? No, not even in Scotland, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used. It simply means most people don’t understand what legal tender is (see below). Bank of England notes are only legal tender in England and Wales, meaning there are no legal tender notes in Scotland at all.
– What is legal tender? It simply means if you have a court order against you for money, the person you owe cannot turn down your settlement if you offer to pay by legal tender.
– Let me finish with a quick word to English shopkeepers – please accept Scottish and Northern Irish notes. While not legal tender, they are UK Parliament-approved legal currency, which makes them a perfectly acceptable way to pay.


Thank you Sophie for that additional information. I had not realised that Scotland had no concept of legal tender and that even Bank of England notes can [technically] be rejected in settlement. I think the Scottish and Northern Irish banks need to do something really canny to get the English shopkeepers on their side and issue banknotes to the value of £4.99, £9.99, and £19.99. This would save shopkeepers money in carrying change and save the banks a lot of coin-handling.


Re £4.99, £9.99 & £19.99 – just for interest…

I’d always assumed that goods were priced at £4.99 because it “sounds” cheaper than £5. But I’ve heard that an additional reason is because an item priced at £4.99 will be paid for with a £5 note. The shopkeeper then has to ring it into the till to get the penny change – instead of simply stuffing it into his/her back pocket.

So “shop assistants” might be pleased, but “shop owners” might not.