Plastic money review: Our verdict on the Bank of England's new polymer £5 note

Francesca Washtell
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The Capitalist models a couple of the new polymer £5 bills (Source: Greg Sigston/City AM)

Unless you've been sleeping under a rock, you'll be aware that a minor revolution in Britain's banking sector occurred today with the launch of the new polymer £5 note.

But how does it really fare in practice, and will the new £5 notes last the lifestyle of a City gentleman (or gentlewoman)?

The Capitalist has tested the new £5 note so you don't have to, subjecting it to five tests an old school City don might put it through in its lifespan, and this is what we found.

Read more: Who's going to be on the Bank of England's new £20 note?

1. The coffee-spill test

Does the new £5 wilt if the morning takeaway coffee is spilled on it, or it is accidentally dipped in a flat white instead of a biscuit?

The note held up well in this regard, being fully waterproof and wipeable.

2. Folding - does the new note work for discreet tipping?

The new fiver fared worse here. While the notes of yore would be good for folding up in the palm of your hand and discreetly passing over with a handshake, the new £5 note has the vaguely annoying ability to spring right back into shape.

Folding it up into a paper aeroplane, to truly test its mettle, did result in some creases, but when we angrily tried to rip it (hard day at the office...), that didn't work either. It seems pretty indestructible at this stage.

Read more: This is what the new polymer £5 note will look like

3. Self-service machines

You'll be glad to know the closest supermarket self-service machine to the City A.M. office ate the new polymer up within seconds, causing no faff whatsoever.

4. Cigar burning

Burnt notes: surely a problem every City gent faces at some time or other? When a cigar was dropped on the new note it did melt (as was probably expected, see corner in picture below).

This was the note's first display of weakness and in fairness stands up better than its paper counterpart, as it melted in a contained manner and did not wholly catch fire.

Burning the notes resulted in some quite impressive melting, but the notes were still up to task (Source: Greg Sigston/City AM)

5. Red wine stains - does it matter if you drop it in your claret?

After the edges of one of our test fivers was mysteriously burned around the edges, we did wonder if dropping some red wine on it would make a stain.

But no - no stains recorded, even on the melted areas. Well played, fiver.

Read more: There will be a woman on our notes - Bank of England confirms Jane Austen will be on the £10

The Capitalist's verdict:

Four out of five. For the City lifestyle of days gone by, the new £5 is not much less vulnerable to actual fire than a paper note (albeit it melts rather than burns), and is let down by its lack of tipping subtlety - but it does seem to be virtually indestructible and is waterproof in all other ways. Bring on the plastic revolution.

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