Who’s on the back of the new £5 banknote? Only three out of ten Brits know…


A huge deal has been made about the new polymer £5 note. It can be machine washed, it is hard to rip and much cleaner than the outgoing paper banknote. Some banknotes are even going for as much as £200 on eBay! And yet, despite all of this just 31% of Brits know who’s on the back of the new note, according to new research from Barclaycard.



Just 31% knew that it was Sir Winston Churchill on the back of the polymer £5 note, and that’s as good as it gets. According to Barclaycard, Just 8% know that it’s Elizabeth Fry, the 19th century prison and social reformer, that’s on the back of the paper £5 note.

Worryingly, only one out of ten people knows it’s Charles Darwin on the back of the £10 note, 8% know it’s Adam Smith on the back of the £20 and only 2% know it’s Matthew Boulton and James Watt on the back of the £50.

The research goes one further and actually asks respondents to describe who the people were – only 39% knew Fry was a social reformer and just 29% knew Adam Smith was an economist.


Who do people want to see on banknotes? 

Over half of Brits (55%) believe the luminaries on the back of the notes should be replaced every decade. There is an almost even split as to what type of person should appear – 51% believe the space should be reserved for scientists and inventors, with 36% opting for philanthropists and a quarter (26%) choosing prominent authors.

Olympic and Paralympic fever has caught on, but not enough for banknotes as just 17% are worthy of being memorialised on banknotes. Politicians fared even worse, receiving just 10% of support. There is however, a large support (48%) for more than one person appearing on the back with people happy to commemorate teams and partnerships. Six per cent feel cartoon and fictional characters such as Bart Simpson deserve consideration.


If people forget, where does this leave cash? 

Obviously not knowing that it’s Elizabeth Fry on the back of the paper £5 does not mark the end of cash, but Barclaycard also found that a quarter of people (24%)  are now more frequently opting out of using cash, instead preferring to pay with digital methods such as Chip and PIN, contactless and mobile payments than they did 12 months ago.

Just under a third (30%) are paying with notes less often compared to last year with a fifth (18%) planning to decrease their use even further in the next year.  What’s more, 23% now pay with a £50 note once a year or less and 35% have never even used one.

These figures are dropping just as contactless card usage is soaring. This trend is noticeable across the European continent as the likes of France and Germany believe the future of payments lies in mobiles and digital wallets.

Tami Hargreaves, Commercial Director, Digital Consumer Payments at Barclaycard, said:

“The introduction of the new £5 polymer note spurred a renewed interest in English banknotes yet, despite this, it’s surprising just how unfamiliar Brits seem to be with the famous figures who appear alongside the Queen. What is reassuring, however, is that we do still hold the position on the reverse in high regard, with the majority of us believing the faces on the back of our banknotes are worthy of some of the most influential and significant Britons of all time.

She added that electronic options such as Chip and PIN, contactless and mobile are becoming the preferred way to pay for goods and services and with shoppers carrying less cash this trend is only set to continue.

“In fact we expect 2016 to be a record breaking year for card payments.”

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