Get Smart About Polymer
What is polymer
Polymer is made from polypropylene and is a durable yet thin and flexible plastic film. It can be coated with layers of special ink that enables it to carry the printed design features of banknotes. The material allows the inclusion of ‘windows’ or clear portions in the design, which enhance protection against counterfeiters.
Why did the UK change to polymer banknotes
Polymer banknotes have three main benefits: they are more difficult to counterfeit, they are more durable than paper (lasting at least 2.5 times longer as well as being harder to tear), and they are more resistant to dirt and germs.
The Bank of England conducted research, liaised with countries already using polymer and carried out public consultations before confirming the change to polymer.
Why did the size of the banknotes change
The notes changed size to be more in line with the size of those in other countries. The existing format of tiered sizing will be maintained, i.e. the higher the denomination, the longer the height and the length of note. Also, the larger denomination banknotes will be easier to fit into wallets and purses and the smaller notes will be cheaper to produce. And, there are also advantages in storage and transport. The traditional look of the banknotes will be retained, with a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen on the front and historic characters on the back.
The Bank of England liaised with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to ensure that the smaller sizes for the proposed polymer notes would not cause problems in the identification of bank notes by the visually impaired.
How many countries currently use polymer banknotes
Over 33 countries currently issue polymer notes. These include Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, Canada and Fiji.
When were polymer banknotes introduced
The Bank of England introduced the £5 note in September 2016 and the £10 note featuring Jane Austen in September 2017.
When will the paper £5 and £10 banknotes stop being legal tender
The old paper £5 and £10 notes were withdrawn from circulation approximately six months after the £5 and £10 polymer notes were introduced. The Bank of England announced when the old paper notes cease to be legal tender.
Will the £20 note and £50 banknote be changed to polymer too
The new £20 polymer note is due to enter circulation in 2020. A decision on whether to print the £50 note on polymer will be made in due course.
Are polymer banknotes slippery to handle
Polymer notes feel different from paper and can feel slippery when new, although this tends to decline over time once the notes are in circulation. The notes will have areas of raised print which will give them a tactile quality and reduce the slippery feel.
What does polymer mean for the cash processing industry
The Bank of England has consulted the cash processing industry about this switchover, and we have worked with them to ensure a smooth a transition as possible. Test notes were issued to the industry in advance so the industry could make the necessary changes to software/hardware well in advance of the first polymer note being released.
This page will be updated when new information becomes available. In the meantime if you have any queries or questions, please call us on 0800 0186484.