Plastic five pound notes that can survive a soaking in liquid and will last longer than paper fivers are available in cash machines from today – but shoppers have been warned they may stick together.
The historic move marks the gradual death of paper notes as the Bank of England phases in polymer cash.
Armoured vehicles have delivered about £2billion worth of plastic £5 notes from the central bank’s cash centres in Debden, Essex, and Leeds to more than 30 top secret, high-security vaults across the country.
The first batch of 440 million new fivers – which are 15% smaller than the existing ones – will be cleaner, safer and stronger than paper versions, the Bank of England said.
Governor Mark Carney added: “The new note can better withstand being repeatedly folded into wallets or scrunched up inside pockets. It can also survive a spin in the washing machine.”
But shoppers have been warned the new fivers may stick together, meaning customers hand over too much cash at the tills.
The Bank of England issued the warning about notes being hard to separate.
It said: “Brand new polymer notes can sometimes stick together, but this effect is short-lived once in use.”
History of the £5
The £5 note came into circulation in 1793 when the French threatened Britain’s trade routes and gold reserves fell.
The “white fiver” was more than 7in long.
With one side blank, the distinctive note remained unchanged until 1945, when a metal thread was introduced.
It was replaced by the first double-sided note in 1957. It was blue and had a Helmeted Britannia.
Queen Elizabeth II was added in 1963, a different portrait was used in 1971 and a third in 1990, with engineer George Stephenson on the back.
In 2002, prison reformer Elizabeth Fry became the first woman to appear on the reverse.