The plastic fiver enters circulation today with the Bank of England promising the new note will be a stronger and more secure upgrade on its paper predecessor.

What distinguishes the new Lady Godiva (excuse the rhyming slang) from all other notes currently in circulation is that it's made of a type of polymer plastic that can be recycled.

Not only is the new version more eco-friendly than the paper equivalent, it's also tougher (as it's resistant to dirt and moisture) and therefore expected to last at least 2.5 times longer – for around five years. It also has a number of security features that make it even harder to counterfeit.

Staff at got a sneak preview of the incoming five pound note yesterday and found it pretty much indestructible, but is its launch likely to benefit consumers or will it prove an inconvenience? We take a look…

How will I know if I'm holding a new fiver?

Well first off, it feels very different to a paper note, with one MSE employee commenting that it has the feel of toy cash (although you wouldn't want to confuse it for Monopoly money!).

Another significant feature is that it's 15% smaller than the paper fiver – the Bank of England says that smaller notes mean less material will be used in production and that this will reduce manufacturing costs and deliver environmental benefits.

Finally, the famous face adorning the new note is that of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill (the Queen takes her usual spot on the other side of the note).

When will I be able to get my hands on the new note?

The new fiver goes into circulation today (13 September), but it might be a few weeks before you're able to pop one in your pocket.

Around 5,200 ATMs (approximately 7% of all such machines in the country) dispense £5 notes and most are expected to switch to dispensing the new notes over the first month.

However, most bank branches are expected to have the new notes within a week or so, so head over to your nearest bank branch if you really want to get your hands on one.

Will I be able to use the new notes in self-service ticketing machines (at car parks, cinemas, railway stations, etc)?

The Bank of England says it's working with the cash industry "to facilitate machine readiness from 13 September for polymer £5 notes" although it admits that this is "a significant task and not all machines will be ready from day one".

For the time being, it's probably a good idea to keep some loose change to hand (as well as paper notes) when using ticketing machines as you may stumble across a machine that has not yet been updated to handle the new plastic fivers.

Plastic £5 notes available from today – but can you use them in ticket machines?
The new plastic fiver is expected to last at least 2.5 times longer than its paper predecessor

What's happening with the old paper fivers?

The paper £5 notes are being withdrawn from circulation following the launch of the plastic fivers. The Bank of England says that by January 2017 it expects more than half the £5 notes currently in circulation will have been switched for plastic notes.

Can I continue using the old paper fivers?

You can continue to use the paper £5 note until its legal tender status is withdrawn on 5 May 2017.

However, it's worth pointing out that all Bank of England notes retain their face value forever. So if your bank, building society or post office is not willing to accept the old paper notes, they can be exchanged with the Bank of England in London by post or in person.

Are we likely to see plastic notes of other denominations circulated in future?

Indeed we are. A new plastic tenner will be issued next summer, while a new plastic £20 note is expected to be introduced to circulation by 2020. The current £50 note was issued in 2011 and there are no plans to replace it in the near future.

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