Cash machines to start dispensing £5 notes

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The Independent Online

From today cash machines across the country will start dispensing a fistful of fivers – no matter how much money you want to withdraw.

ATM operators are under pressure from the Bank of England to boost the circulation of £5 notes, which are becoming increasingly rare and tatty.

In a bid to stem the shopkeepers’ refrain – “sorry, I’ve run out of fivers” – when saddling customers with a heavy load of pound coins, 21 cash machines will today dispense only £5 notes for the first time.

While the total value of £5 notes in circulation has stayed fairly constant – at around £1 billion in total – since the early 1990s, the number of more popular £10 and £20 notes in circulation has almost tripled.

The shortage of fivers has dogged the Bank for years. In March it announced a new drive to boost circulation, encouraging banks across the country to give out more £5 notes across the counter.

But a quick straw poll at a row of ATMs in London yesterday revealed widespread bemusement about the supposed £5 note crisis.

One sports fan, clutching a wodge of £20 notes, was not at all worried about the lack of fivers –dressed in an England shirt, he clearly had more pressing concerns on his mind.

The £5 note suffers from a shorter lifespan – they only last for about a year on average before being destroyed, whereas a £50 note can often last five years or more.

Andrew Bailey, the Bank’s chief cashier, said: ‘The Bank has several projects under way to meet public demand for more £5 notes. One of these aims at encouraging the industry to include £5 notes in their ATMs.’

The creation of the £5-only ATMs follows a successful pilot scheme in London, where just two machines are pumping around 100,000 £5 notes into shoppers’ hands every month.