Paying with Plastic - Polymer Banknotes for the UK?

No,  not another article on contactless debit cards or a new credit card.

If you’ve not already heard, the Bank of England will introduce plastic banknotes into the UK. In the cash industry we say that the banknotes will be made from a polymer substrate. But, yes, the tabloids have got it right, that means plastic.

Today our banknotes are made from paper. Well actually they’re not. Paper is made from wood pulp fibres. Banknotes are made from cotton fibres… er … like our clothes. You learn something new every day, don’t you? Imagine cash as a fashion item. The best dressed man about town is wearing a new £5 note designed by the Bank of England. Given the uproar about whose picture should appear on the next new banknote from the BOE, some people really do take notice. .. so it won’t be a man’s face. And the next banknote is likely to be made from plastic not cotton.

The Bank of England has already consulted with the banks and the manufacturers of equipment that process banknotes and is now in the middle of a public consultation, in case you hadn’t heard. Well if you hadn’t, and you’ve got a view on this, you’d better get a move on because the public consultation programme only lasts until 15th November and it intends to finalise its decision in December.

Actually the BOE has published lots of information on its website and made a really good job of it. Have a look: 

Bank of England Public Consultation Programme

You can download lots of information or a comment form and you’ve still got time to attend one of their regional walkabouts. “Walkabouts?” Well Australia was the first country to introduce polymer banknotes, and that was back in 1988. Now there are over 20 other countries using them. I can’t see it happening in the good ol’ USA though. They like the greenbacks, and they’re all still the same size.

Polymer Banknotes

Polymer banknotes cost more to produce but they are much more durable and difficult to counterfeit. The BOE suggests that they will last at least 2.5 times as long as banknotes made with cotton fibre, but experience in other countries indicates that a banknote's life could be 4-5 times as long. The polymer substrate is difficult to reproduce as well as the complex method of printing. New features, such as the clear window shown in the middle of this sample design, can also make the notes difficult to counterfeit.