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Home > Banknotes > Improving the Quality of £5 notes

Improving the Quality of £5 notes

​In the years up to 2010, the Bank received a large number of complaints about the quality and availability of £5 notes. It became apparent that there were not sufficient flows of £5s between the wholesale cash system and retailers and households that wanted to use them.

By 2009, the amount of £5 notes being redistributed by NCS members had fallen to under £2 billion per year. To put this in context, around £58 billion of £10 notes were being redistributed.
Normally, banknotes flow between the NCS, banks, retailers and the public is a fairly continuous cycle.
Banknote flow between the NCS, banks, retailers and the public

The low volumes of £5s being redistributed through the wholesale system reflected the low number of £5s-dispensing ATMs (the main way in which the public obtains cash). As £5s are a change item, this meant that the £5s in circulation were being passed between retailers and the public many times and only returned to an NCS member infrequently. Notes can only be quality checked and replacements issued when they reach an NCS member.
In 2009, the Bank ran a pilot scheme with HSBC, which set some of their ATMs to dispense £5s for a period of three months. The pilot demonstrated that certain ATMs could dispense £5s without any increase in operating costs and that customers were either indifferent to or preferred receiving some £5s in their withdrawal.
On this basis, the Bank challenged large banks and building societies to increase the amount of £5s dispensed from ATMs. We set a target of 1.2% of the total value of notes dispensed.
To date, this has been very successful. Overall, 1.7% of ATM dispense by value is in £5 notes and all of the major ATM operators are on target. NCS members now redistribute £4 billion of £5s annually. The quality and availability of £5s has improved and complaints have almost disappeared.