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Planning Retirement Online

Key to the new notes!

November 2016

oversize new five pound note

You may have noticed that some plastic style bank notes are now in circulation. They look different and feel very different too.

It is all part of the Bank of England’s decision to move to polymer banknotes, replacing the traditional paper banknotes that we have had all our lives.

The new notes are made of thin, flexible plastic film and are predicted to be cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper notes. All of us have experienced bank notes that have become torn or dirty and the new polymer notes should help prevent this.

The first question everyone asks is if they can be folded to put into wallets or pockets. Yes, the answer is the plastic is very flexible and they can be folded. However, once folded they do have a tendency to want to pop back into their full shape. They also feel very different and can feel slippery when new, but this generally improves once the note has been handed around a bit. The new notes have areas of raised print to reduce the slippery feel.

The new polymer five pound note was issued in September this year and the paper five pound notes are already being withdrawn from circulation. By January the Bank expects that more than half the five pound notes in circulation will have been switched for polymer notes; and the paper notes will be fully withdrawn from circulation on May 5th 2017. If, after that time, you still have a paper note you should be able to exchange it at a bank, building society or Post Office, or the Bank of England will exchange them by post.

One reason the new polymer notes are coming in is because they offer better resistance to fraud; counterfeit polymer banknotes are more easily detected than paper versions and they are more difficult to copy as well.

You can check features which are specific to each denomination, such as the see-through window on the new polymer five pound notes, to ensure they are not counterfeit. It is interesting to note that counterfeit notes are worthless and it is a criminal offence to hold onto or pass on counterfeit notes – but only if you know they are counterfeit. If you suspect a note is counterfeit, take it to the police as soon as possible. They will give you a receipt and send the note to the Bank of England for analysis. If the note is genuine, you will be reimbursed.

Other notes will be going polymer as well. New polymer £10 notes are expected to be introduced in summer 2017, featuring Jane Austen.  A new polymer £20 note, featuring JMW Turner, will be introduced by 2020. A decision is still being made on a new £50 note.

new polymer bank note characters

A final point in their favour is that polymer notes are more environmentally friendly than paper notes and they last longer.

The UK is not ahead of the game in switching to polymer currency; already 30 countries use them including Australia who introduced them nearly 30 years ago.

One interesting little fact about the new plastic notes…a lot of people have been examining the serial numbers on their notes in the hope of picking up the very first note with the serial number of AA01 00001. While of course this could be worth a great deal of money, there is little chance of finding it in your change…Britain’s very first plastic note has been presented to The Queen.

The Bank of England has more information on the new notes here.



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