Back in September, the Bank of England released the Churchill £5, which replaced the old paper version featuring prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. But if you’re still clinging on to your Fry fivers, be warned: They won’t be legal tender for much longer.
The change comes into effect on May 5th. On that date, shops won’t be able to accept the old-fashioned £5 since it’ll be, in effect, not worth the paper it’s printed on.
According to the Bank of England, around half of the £5 notes depicting Fry have been returned to the institution, where they’ve been destroyed. But that still leaves approximately 160 million of the fivers still in circulation. Or, to put it another way, customers now have less than a month to spend £800 million.
Those in possession of the Fry fiver can also return them to a bank in exchange for the new polymer note, and while some banks and building societies may continue accepting them after the May 5th deadlines, customers are warned that this is at the bank’s discretion, and is in no way guaranteed. If you do turn up an old fiver after it’s ‘sell-by date’, you could always give it to the Bank of England, who always exchange old money for the current legal tender (that goes for that old £1 note you’re still using as a bookmark, too).
The new polymer £5 note, billed as more durable and more secure against counterfeiting measures, is just phase one in the Bank of England’s drive to update our currency. It’s been recently followed by the 12-sided £1 coin that experts are calling the most secure coin ever made thanks, in part, to its bi-metallic construction, similar to the £2.
The old ‘round pound’ will cease to be legal tender in October 2017, just one month after the introduction of the BoE’s redesigned polymer £10. This note will see Charles Darwin replaced with author Jane Austen. It is a truth, universally accepted, that Austen was chosen to reflect ‘her universal appeal and enduring contribution to English literature’. In 2020, the Bank of England are planning to introduce a new £20, too, this time showing a self-portrait of artist JMW Turner in place of the existing Adam Smith design.
However, controversy over the construction of the new polymer notes has meant the planned introduction of the new £20 will now require a public consultation. Some are angry at the Bank of England for using tallow – animal fat typically used to make soap and candles – in the creation of the notes. As such, the BoE will, prior to signing supply contracts with any company, investigate ‘the range of public opinion’. Indeed, they’ve already suggested that plant-based extracts such as coconut or palm oil may be used as a substitute.
But for now, all that matters are your antiquated paper notes. And with the deadline closing in, it may be time to follow Viv Nicholson’s lead and ‘spend, spend, spend’ those old Fry fivers before it’s too late.