The rise and rise of the humble 5-pound note

Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:37pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - Once hovering on the brink of being classified as an endangered species, the humble five pound note is back with a vengeance.

Britons are using 10 times more "fivers" than they were two years ago, the Bank of England said on Thursday, as the notes become more widely available in cash machines and scruffy old ones are replaced.

Consumers in Britain now withdraw almost 200 million pounds worth of fivers from cash machines every month, the Bank said.

As people use these notes to buy goods, shopkeepers become less inclined to hoard dirty old notes and these can then be removed from circulation more quickly.

Bank Governor Mervyn King said in 2007 he was concerned about the deteriorating condition of old notes in circulation. He said the public needed five pound notes but few banks issued them because it was cheaper for them to stock cash machines with 10 and 20-pound notes.

Two years ago, the central bank set lenders the goal of ensuring that at least 1.2 percent of the cash their hole-in-the wall machines dispensed was in five-pound notes by 2012.

Lenders adapted some of their cash machines so that they could hold the notes and now 1.5 percent of the money consumers withdraw from machines comes in fivers.

"This initiative has made significant progress in dealing with (my) concerns, which were also shared by the public," King said in a statement on Thursday.

"A key objective for the Bank is to maintain public confidence in the currency, by meeting demand with good-quality genuine banknotes that the public can use with confidence."

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Steve Addison)

Some British sterling money in coins and bank notes is seen September 2, 2005. REUTERS/Catherine Benson