Polymer banknotes: frequently asked questions

The Bank of England is replacing its paper banknotes with new polymer notes. The polymer £5 and £10 notes are already in circulation, and dates for the introduction of the new £20 notes have been announced.

Q. Why the change?

Polymer banknotes are made from transparent plastic film coated with a layer of ink. The material allows clear portions on the design, which is difficult to counterfeit.

Polymer notes:

  • stay cleaner for longer than paper notes as they are resistant to dirt and moisture
  • are more secure as it is harder to create realistic fake notes
  • last longer than paper notes and are more durable

Q. What do the new Bank of England notes look like?

The new Bank of England notes feature different images:

  • the paper £5 note featuring Elizabeth Fry has been replaced by a polymer note featuring Winston Churchill
  • the paper £10 note featuring Charles Darwin has been replaced by a polymer note featuring Jane Austen
  • the paper £20 note featuring Adam Smith will be replaced with a polymer note featuring JMW Turner

The new notes are slightly smaller in size. 

Q. When will the changes happen?

The important dates to remember for Bank of England notes are:

  • 13 September 2016 - the new polymer £5 note was introduced
  • 5 May 2017 - the old paper £5 note was withdrawn from circulation
  • 14 September 2017 - the new polymer £10 note was introduced
  • 1 March 2018 - the old paper £10 note was withdrawn from circulation
  • 2020 - the new polymer £20 note will be introduced

Q. What happens when the old Bank of England notes are withdrawn?  

When the old paper Bank of England notes are withdrawn they cease to be legal tender. However you will always be able to exchange the old notes at the Bank of England. Some businesses, banks and building societies may choose to continue accepting Bank of England paper notes after withdrawal. However, they are not obliged to accept them and should not dispense them.

Q. What does my business need to do?

Your business should make the following considerations:

  • adapt any cash handling equipment to accept the new Bank of England polymer notes – you may need to contact the manufacturer
  • train staff on the new Bank of England polymer notes and the withdrawal of paper notes

Q. Are other banks withdrawing paper notes?

The three Scottish issuing banks are now printing their £5 and £10 notes on polymer.

There are four issuing banks in Northern Ireland, so far only Ulster Bank have announced new vertical £5 and £10 polymer notes. These will be launched in 2019.

Q. Where can I find out more?

Find further information and training resources from the Bank of England.