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New Plastic £5 Note Featuring Winston Churchill Unveiled In UK: What You Need To Know

It's washable and untearable, but there is one unlikely side-effect.

01/06/2016 07:12 | Updated 02 June 2016

Britain's new £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill has been unveiled and while it is a far-superior than its predecessor it also comes with an unlikely warning - be careful when spending it.

The note is printed on polymer, a think plastic film that is so durable it can survive a spin in the washing machine, is almost untearable, and will last about five years - rather than the usual 18 months. 

However, there is one unlikely side effect. The polymer-coating means notes can stick together, raising fears that shoppers, especially the elderly, may accidentally end up paying twice when settling bills. 

  • Joe Giddens/PA Wire
    The new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill, is unveiled at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
  • Joe Giddens/PA Wire
    The new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill, is unveiled at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
  • Joe Giddens/PA Wire
    Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, unveils the full design of the new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill, at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
  • Joe Giddens/PA Wire
    The new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill, is unveiled at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
  • Joe Giddens/PA Wire
    The new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill, is unveiled at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
  • Joe Giddens/PA Wire
    Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, unveils the full design of the new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill, at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
  • Joe Giddens/PA Wire
    The new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill, is unveiled at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
  • Joe Giddens/PA Wire
    The new polymer £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill, is unveiled at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

The note, set to be issued in September, was unveiled at Churchill's birthplace, Blenheim Palace.

Around 440 million of the new notes will come into circulation from the autumn, with other higher denomination notes set to follow from next year.

The announcement by the Bank of England in 2013 that the current note, featuring prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, was to be replaced with one featuring the former prime minister, led to British feminists going on the attack

Thousands of people later signed a petition in protest of the face-swap, arguing that famous British women were being forgotten. Fry's departure from the note meant that the Queen would be the only woman to feature on UK bank notes. 

The bank subsequently announced that Jane Austen would be the face of the new £10 note from 2017 and artist JMW Turner would feature on the next £20 banknote, which is due to be released by 2020. Both notes will also be printed on polymer.  

The Bank is yet to decide whether or not it will print £50 polymer notes.

Here's seven things you need to know about the new note.

  • Easier to fit in your wallet
    Fairfax Media via Getty Images
    The new note will be about 15% smaller than the current one, meaning you can fit even more cash in your wallet, or more likely, you'll have more space for receipts and loyalty cards you keep forgetting to get stamps on.
  • Indestructible
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    The new £5 note will repel dirt and moisture, meaning if you spill a drink on it, the liquid can simply be wiped off - even red wine.

    The bank also claims it will last 2.5 times longer than its predecessor - up to five years, rather than 18 months, and is almost impossible to tear.
  • Washing machine resistant
    Jae Rew via Getty Images
    The note will also survive a 90C spin in the washing machine, the Bank of England's chief cashier, Victoria Cleland, has been quoted as saying.

    However, she did not "encourage" people to put that to the test, saying it was a "fortunate by-product".

    The note will shrink and melt at temperatures above 120°C, so can be damaged by an iron or a very hot washing machine or tumble dryer cycle
  • Easy on the eye
    Clodagh Kilcoyne via Getty Images
    You might not be a flashy spender, but Cleland said the new note is an attention grabber and has been extremely popular among members of the public who had seen it. 

    She said of people's reaction to the note: "They often said, 'Wow, that's really cool.' You don't often get 'cool' and 'the Bank of England' in the same sentence," The Sunday Times reported. "They are more modern and I think they're beautiful."
  • So hot right now
    Pascal Le Segretain via Getty Images
    The arrival of plastic banknotes means Britain is finally catching up with cash trends.

    The UK now joins a list of more than 30 countries that already use them. Australia was the first to launch plastic notes in 1988, followed by countries including New Zealand and Singapore. 

    Since the Bank of England was formed in 1694, Britain bank notes have been made from cotton paper.
  • Harder to copy
    Kendall McMinimy via Getty Images
    The Bank hopes the detailed new notes will be more difficult for fraudsters to successfully copy. It has not elaborated on why.
  • But easier to spend
    andresrimaging via Getty Images
    The Bank Of England warned that when they are new, polymer notes can stick together - meaning people could mistakenly hand over two notes instead of one. 

    Experts fear the move to plastic notes could create a particular financial burden for the elderly as they are most likely to use cash, but may not notice their notes sticking together

    An official Bank of England Q&A sheet warns: "Brand new polymer notes can sometimes stick together, but this effect is short-lived once in use."
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