/ Money

Five cheers for the return of £5 notes

£5 note close up

The banks are finally starting to stock £5 notes in their cash machines. I know I’m over the moon that more fivers will be back in ATMs, and for a short time at least, in my pocket. Are you?

I’m old enough to remember the £1 note. And I bet, like me, you weren’t all that pleased when that note disappeared. It’s cost me a fortune in shopping for trousers, as pound coins rip straight through the pockets. So although I look better – as I have to spend more on clothes – I’d still prefer to pay with paper, rather than digging around for grubby coins.

Thanks for the fiver

As for the £5 note, I have a very serious reason for welcoming it back into general circulation. There are plenty of times when I’ve been stuck a little short of cash, and ended up getting 20 quid out. Needless to say, once I’ve broken into this, I’ve spent it.

I doubt I’m not alone in wanting to avoid overspending. Having to hit the £10 button on an ATM, just because I’m a few quid short, is an unfortunate necessity. More fivers would make life so much easier. Many of you agreed in an earlier Conversation, including Julia Clark:

‘I’d love to get £5 notes from ATMs. When my son was doing guitar lessons I had to go inside the bank and write a cheque to get them. Quite often I need to give my son money but don’t want to give him £10.’

Sometimes all I want is a little bit of cash, without having the temptation of extra money in my pocket. Because right now I really need to be saving!

I bet Elizabeth Fry, who adorns the fiver and was a big player in the Quaker movement, would applaud the reintroduction of fivers. She trumpeted the cause of the disenfranchised, who are the very people who might not have a surplus of 10 or 20 pound notes to draw on.

Are you as happy as I am to see the £5 note going back into circulation?


I believe that one reason why banks have so far been reluctant to put £5 notes in ATMs is because of capacity in terms of cash value stored. An ATM can hold only a limited number of notes; if these are of lower denomination, the total cash value stored is less and the ATM needs to be restocked more frequently. However, as time goes on, more ATMs become available and people have less demand for cash, making greater use of plastic and on-line purchases, so perhaps this is why it is becoming easier to provide £5 notes in ATMs.

My main gripe in recent years is the short availability of £5 notes even over the bank counter. I like to have in my wallet plenty of notes of the lowest denomination. This eases handling of change in shops. I like to pay in such a manner as to avoid a mixture of notes and coins in change. Since I keep notes and coins in separate places – even in separate parts of my wallet – if I have a mixture in change it slows down the time it takes me to put away my change, pick up my shopping and leave the till ready for the next customer. It’s a case of efficiency.

I did get some £5 notes from the bank today (over the counter) and, for once, they were crisp and new. This does not happen often; £5 notes are usually notoriously raggy. Shape of things to come, perhaps?

Sophie Gilbert says:
31 March 2011

Yeeeaay! And we do still get £1 notes in Scotland, but I can’t say we see them very often! Time to start printing them again as well.