A new set of polymer £5 notes featuring a portrait of Winston Churchill are entering circulation.

As a result, the current paper £5 notes will stop being legal tender in May 2017.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Why is the old £5 note being replaced?

The current £5 note is made of cotton paper. It tears easily, doesn’t survive a washing machine cycle and is generally seen as pretty feeble when compared with other bank notes around the world.

Typically, a £5 note survives around 18 months to two years before it’s unfit to be in circulation.

It’s being replaced with the new Sir Winston Churchill bank note. The new note will be the first British bank note to be printed on polymer, a thin, flexible plastic film.

Polymer notes are wipe clean, tear-resistant and expected to have around a five-year lifespan, more than double that of the old £5 note. And, yes, it should survive a turn in the washing machine.

The new note will also be 15% smaller – but still bigger than euro notes or dollars – and hopefully it’ll be harder to copy.

It’s believed that changing to polymer £5 notes will save the Bank of England around £100 million over the next 10 years as they will stay in circulation for longer.

When can I stop spending paper £5 notes?

The old £5 note will start to be withdrawn from circulation as soon as the new polymer version starts being distributed on September 13.

The Bank of England has said it expects the number of old £5 notes in circulation to have halved by January 2017.

You can continue to spend paper £5 notes until May 2017 when they will lose their legal tender status.

Will they be worthless?

No. All bank notes issued by the Bank of England retain their face value forever.

This means you can take your old £5 notes to a bank, building society or Post Office and exchange it for a new polymer £5 note.

If the branch refuses to accept your old notes then you can exchange them at the Bank of England in London either by post or in person.

Where can I get a new £5 note?

The notes are trickling into circulation. Cashpoints in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Hull and Cardiff will stock them first.

Only 7% of UK cash machines dispense £5 notes.

Most bank branches are likely to have them within a week.

Will paper £5 notes disappear completely?

No. The Bank of England is getting rid of paper fivers but banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland may not follow suit. The new notes will be accepted all over the UK but paper notes issued by banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland will also still be legal currency.

What about other note denominations?

After we’ve all got used to the new plastic fivers, you can expect to see more plastic in your wallet pretty quickly. New polymer £10 notes will be issued in summer 2017, featuring Jane Austen.

A new polymer £20 note will arrive by 2020, but at present there are no plans to change the £50 note.

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Images courtesy of Bank of England