Long absent from cash machines and, increasingly, our wallets, crisp five pound notes will soon become a more common sight after the Bank of England promised to improve their quality and availability. In a speech to the Currency Cycle Conference in Barcelona on Monday, the head of the Bank's notes division, Victoria Cleland, said the 10 largest cash machine operators have agreed to increase the frequency of the fiver.
In recent years, the £5 note has disappeared from cash machines, with customers having no option but to withdraw a minimum £10 or £20. Around 10 to 15 per cent of machines will now dispense £5 notes. Currently fewer than 3 per cent do so.
Seventy per cent of banknotes reach the public via the UK's 63,000 cash machines, meaning the £5 note is under-represented. A high proportion of them are in worse condition than other notes because they change hands quicker and aren't returned for sorting as regularly.
A typical £10 note is checked for quality nine times a year. In contrast, the typical £5 note is only checked one-and-a-half times a year on average.
ATM operators have agreed to ensure that at least 1.2 per cent of their total dispense is in £5 notes. It means that around 10 to 15 per cent of their ATMs will be re-configured. They have promised to identify which machines can be loaded with £5 notes without having to be refilled more frequently.
"In time, we hope a virtuous circle will develop. As more £5 notes are acquired by the public, those in circulation should be fitness-sorted more frequently," Ms Cleland said. "As the poor-quality £5s are removed, the average quality of the £5s in people's wallet or purse should improve."
She warned that the change would not happen overnight: "There is no doubt that the public welcome the changes that have taken place so far and over the coming months, the fiver should start to look as familiar – and as smart – as our other denominations," she said.
There are at least 249 million £5 notes in circulation and the Bank of England has been running a campaign to make them more prevalent.
Meanwhile, Lloyds TSB has become the latest bank to offer the opportunity to customers to make cashless payments. Replacement debit cards will allow cardholders to spend up to £15 by pressing their card to a sensor - known as a "contactless payment" – rather than entering a Pin.
Contactless cards will be sent automatically to those who live within the M25 motorway when their current card expires and to other customers who request this type of card.
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