The UK Welcomes The ‘Plastic Fiver’ Into Circulation

After five years of development, the Bank of England will be crossing a major milestone today (Sept. 13) when it comes to U.K. currency.

Starting today, U.K. citizens will be getting their hands on the first polymer £5 notes issued by the Bank of England.

Smaller than normal bills — and featuring an image of Sir Winston Churchill — the bills are most noted for being made of plastic.

It took five years of public opinion polling and expert consultations with ATM operators and vending machine makers; as of now, there are 440 million brand new plastic bills available for Britons all over the nation.

For Victoria Cleland, the Bank of England’s chief cashier, whose name is on every one of those notes, it is one of the biggest days of her career. Her only worry about the new bills is that consumers will get impatient waiting to actually get their hands on one.

“The main message is we have produced plenty for everybody. We have got 440 million of them, so be patient — you’ll get one in the next week or so,” said Cleland.

The reaction has largely been positive, with users commenting on the bills durability and “neatness.”

This plastic fiver is the first of its kind — but not the last. Next up for production is a Jane Austen £10 note next summer and a plastic JMW Turner £20 note by 2020. The £50 note remains up in the air. Some have speculated that the lack of announced choice is a sign the Bank of England plans to pull the note. Cleland noted that it is because the last £50 was only recently released, and the bank is holding off on replacing it.

“Although there are lots of alternative ways to pay out there, we are still seeing strong demand for cash, and so, that’s why we think it’s really important to make sure it’s fit for the modern age,” she added.

Important for some — not others.

Tanja Fidan, a 30-year-old German who works at the Hermès fashion store opposite the Bank of England, loves the new note but said she rarely carries cash.

“I don’t even carry cards now; I use Apple Pay,” she said.


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