Everything you need to know about the new plastic fiver


Money enthusiasts rejoice! The new plastic £5 banknote is coming into circulation on Tuesday, featuring the one and only Sir Winston Churchill.

Winston Churchill.

Here's a breakdown of everything you need to know, so you don't accidentally embarrass yourself at the pub this weekend - you can thank us later.

Okay, so why do we need a new fiver? What's wrong with the one we have?

The Bank of England replaces notes every so often to introduce new security features in a bid to foil counterfeiters. It also gives them the opportunity to feature new people on the notes: enter Sir Winston Churchill.

The old and new £5 notes.
(Frank Augstein/AP)

So yes, it's for increased security. However, we're personally quite glad to be getting new notes - can you even begin to imagine how many germs are on the old fiver in your wallet?

So what's the new material all about?

The next £5, £10 and £20 notes will be printed on polymer, a thin plastic material. The Bank says that polymer notes last longer, stay cleaner and are harder to counterfeit than the paper notes we have now.

Apparently, the new fiver will be able to survive a spin in the washing machine. This is undoubtedly great news - how many of us have chucked our jeans in the wash forgetting that we'd left some money in the pocket?

Don't worry, they're thin and flexible so can still be folded up and put in your wallet.

Will the new fiver look particularly different?

The new notes are about 15% smaller than the old fivers. We're sure we'll be able to handle such a *dramatic* change.

The new £5 note.
(Frank Augstein/AP)

Apparently brand new polymer notes can sometimes stick together, but the Bank says this effect is short-lived once they are in use. Tapping the new notes on a hard surface like a desk top may make them easier to count.

What's going to happen to the old fivers?

You'll still be able to use the old £5 note featuring Elizabeth Fry until it's withdrawn from circulation in May 2017. Write this date in your diary - at this point it will no longer be accepted by shops, so you don't want to be caught out.

Sample polymer £5 notes.
(Chris Ratcliffe/PA)

But it's not like you'll lose money - you'll be able to exchange the paper £5 notes after this time with the Bank of England for the same face value.

What about the £50 note?

There are no current plans to make the £50 note plastic. This honour is currently just reserved for £5, £10 and £20 notes.

The £50 note.
(John Giles/PA)

Are we pioneering the use of polymer notes?

Unfortunately not - more than 30 countries already issue polymer notes. In Scotland, Clydesdale Bank issued polymer banknotes in 2015 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Forth Bridge.

So there you have it - now you can go out and impress your friends with your knowledge of the new fiver.