Check your wallet – paper £5 notes must be spent by Friday

2 May 2017

It’s time to check your wallets, purses, and piggy banks as the paper £5 note ceases to be legal tender from Friday 5 May 2017.

This means the notes, which bear the image of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, do not have to be accepted by shops, banks or building societies.

The Bank of England says that from this date, only the polymer £5 note featuring former Prime Minister Winston Churchill will be accepted by retailers. This note was introduced in September 2016 and replaced the paper fiver, although the new notes came under fire for containing traces of animal matter.

Some financial institutions may still accept the old paper notes after Friday, but the Bank of England says this is “at their own discretion”.

What should I do with my old fivers?

The notes remain legal tender until Friday, so you have a few days left to spend your old paper fivers in shops. You can also take them to your bank where they can be deposited into your account, or swapped for a new note.

If you find an old-style note after Friday’s deadline and your bank is unwilling to accept it, you can contact the Bank of England which will swap old notes “for all time”. This can be done by visiting the Bank of England in London in person, or by posting your old notes to the central bank.

The address for this service is Dept. NEX, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH. Beware that sending notes through the post is entirely at the sender’s risk.

What other currency changes are happening?

The new 12-sided £1 coin entered circulation in March and the old ‘round pound’ will cease to be legal tender on 15 October 2017.

A polymer £10 note featuring author Jane Austen will be issued in September 2017, while a new £20 note bearing painter JMW Turner is expected to launch by 2020.

If a shop gives me a paper £5 note before Friday, can I ask for a plastic one?

No one is obliged to accept a banknote at any time - so you’re well within your rights to ask for a polymer note. At this stage the chances of getting a paper note are small, especially at major retailers where a lot of cash flows in and out each day and notes are changed regularly. 

What happens to all the paper notes that have been in circulation?

All of the old paper notes are recycled into compost. This happens to all paper notes once they’re no longer in a useable state.

Will paper fivers be worth something in the future?

Rare notes and coins can be valuable but this £5 note was mass produced. It is likely that only those notes with an early serial number in pristine condition are likely to be worth anything substantial. There are many £5 notes with Elizabeth Fry on currently listed on eBay, but few are attracting any bids.

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