Spend your old £5 notes today while they are still legal tender

From Saturday 6 May British shoppers  will no longer be able to use their old £5 notes in some shops and restaurants

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The Independent Online

British shoppers have just 24 hours left to spend the 150 million old fivers which are still in circulation before they lose legal tender status, the Bank of England has warned.

After 5 May, shops will no longer have to accept the old fivers, featuring prison reformer and philanthropist Elizabeth Fry, as payment or in change.

According to the Bank of England's latest estimates, more than 50 per cent of the old notes have already been returned to be destroyed, meaning around 150 million were still in circulation. 

Some retailers might still accept them, but at their own discretion. High street banks can also refuse to exchange notes after the cut-off date, although many said they will replace the notes brought into a branch by their own customers

A spokesperson for Barclays said: “Following withdrawal of legal tender status, Barclays customers can continue to deposit the paper £5 note and old £1 coin into their account. We would recommend that customers allow sufficient time to return old notes rather than leave it until legal tender status is withdrawn.”

The Bank will continue to exchange the old £5 notes indefinitely, as it would for any other bank note which no longer has legal tender status.

The new polymer banknotes, first issued in September last year featuring Sir Winston Churchill, fit in cash machines like paper ones, but are considerably more durable, cleaner and harder to counterfeit.

A spilled drink should have little effect on the new notes, which can be wiped clean and will even survive a standard laundry cycle with “minimal damage”, according to the Bank.

However, certain religious groups and animal activists expressed outrage last year after the Bank revealed that the notes were made with tallow – a substance derived from fat and used in candles and soaps.

Five things to know about the new £5 banknote

A petition garnered more than 100,000 signatures and stated that the fact that the notes contain the tallow, “is unacceptable to millions of vegans & vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains in the UK”.

The Bank, last month, said that it will not withdraw the £5 notes from circulation, but added that it would consult with the public on how future banknotes should be made.

Last week, the Bank said that the “only practical alternative” to animal-derived additives, for the production of its next £20, are those derived from palm oil - an ingredient which has been controversial for its contribution to deforestation.

The £20 polymer notes are due to enter circulation by 2020.