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As part of an overall loss prevention strategy, The Bank of England has advised it is important to check all banknotes being passed in transactions.

In a further bid to prevent counterfeiting, the Bank of England issued the UK’s first polymer banknote – the new £5 note on 13 September 2016, followed by the new £10 note on 14 September 2017, and a new £20 note on 20 February 2020.

The new polymer notes are cleaner, safer and stronger than paper – incorporating advanced security features that make them more difficult to counterfeit. The new notes are also smaller than the current paper notes.

Features to look for on the new polymer £20 note

The new £20 note entered circulation on 20 February 2020 and contains sophisticated security features making it the most secure Bank of England banknote yet – and for the first time – the note incorporates two windows and a two-colour foil, making it very difficult to counterfeit.

Key security features include:

  • The note is printed on polymer, which is a thin and flexible plastic material.  On the front of the note, you can feel raised print.
  • It incorporates two see-through windows and a two-colour foil, making it very difficult to counterfeit.
  • There’s a metallic hologram which changes between the word ‘Twenty’ and ‘Pounds’ when the note is tilted.



What to look for on the new polymer £10 note

The new £10 polymer note entered circulation on 14 September 2017, and all members are being urged to train their staff so they are able to recognise and authenticate them.

The new note is smaller than the old one – at 132mm x 69mm in size – but is larger than the new fiver.

Features of the design to look out for on the reverse of the Jane Austen note include:

  • The quote “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” from Pride and Prejudice (Miss Bingley, Chapter XI).
  • A portrait of Jane Austen commissioned by James Edward Austen Leigh (Jane Austen’s nephew) in 1870, adapted from an original sketch of Jane Austen drawn by her sister, Cassandra Austen.
  • An illustration of Miss Elizabeth Bennet undertaking ‘The examination of all the letters which Jane had written to her’ – from a drawing by Isabel Bishop (1902-1988).
  • The image of Godmersham Park, the home of Edward Austen Knight, Jane Austen’s brother. Jane Austen visited the house often and it is believed that it was the inspiration for a number of her novels.
  • Jane Austen’s writing table – the central design in the background is inspired by the 12 sided writing table and writing quills used by Jane Austen at Chawton Cottage.

To help train your staff, there is a range of materials on note issues and withdrawals at:


Features to look for on the new polymer £5 note

Remember, do not rely on one feature, check as many of the below as possible:

  • Check the see‐through window and the clearly defined portrait of the Queen
  • Check the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) is gold on the front and silver on the back
  • Check the foil patch changes from ’Five’ to ‘Pounds’
  • Check the coronation crown appears 3D
  • Check the ultra‐violet feature



What about other banknotes?

For other banknotes the advice is to remain vigilant at all times, and don’t rely on just one security feature but check a few such as:

  • The feel of the paper and the raised print – Banknotes are printed on special paper that gives them their unique feel. By running your finger across the note, you can feel raised print in areas such as the words ‘Bank of England’ on the front
  • The watermark – Hold the note up to the light and you will see an image of the Queen’s portrait
  • The holograms – There is a hologram on the foil patch. If you tilt the note, the image will change between a brightly coloured picture of Britannia and the numerical value of the note
  • The metaillic thread – There is a metallic thread embedded in every banknote. This appears as silver dashes on the back of £20 notes and on the front of £50 notes. If you hold the note up to the light, the metallic thread appears as a continuous dark line
  • Check with ultra-violet light – If you put the note under a good quality ultra-violet light, its value appears in bright red and green numbers while the background is dull in contrast
  • Check the microlettering – Using a magnifying glass, look closely at the lettering beneath the Queen’s portrait – you will see the value of the note written in small letters and numerals

To help identify genuine banknotes, the Bank of England provide a range of free educational materials (booklet/posters/leaflets etc).

Be aware that those trying to pass counterfeit notes will often try to buy a low value item, using a high value note such as a £20 note. This is so that they can get away with your stock and money from your till.

What type of UV lamp should I use to check that a banknote is genuine?

A good quality ultra violet (UV) lamp that emits light at around 365 nanometres is best for checking the fluorescent feature on £20 and new-style £50 notes (the old-style £50 note does not have the fluorescent feature). The use of LED (Light Emitting Diode) devices (such as key fob type detectors) is not recommended as the majority of these emit light at greater than 365 nanometres. Remember, do not just check one security feature but check a few such as the feel of the paper and the raised print, the watermark and the metallic thread.

Can I use a “detector pen” to check that banknotes are genuine?

Simple tests reveal that some (but not all) counterfeit notes can be detected using such pens. The pens work by a chemical reaction between the pen ink and the paper. Using such pens is not a foolproof method of checking that a banknote is genuine because some counterfeits may be configured to react in the same way as genuine banknotes. Unreliability can also occur if pens are old or dirty.

Should you have a Company Policy regarding counterfeit banknotes?

Retailers and businesses may benefit from establishing a company policy, so employees are clear on the procedures to follow should they be presented with or discover a counterfeit banknote.

The Bank of England believes the following elements form the basis of a good policy:

  • Establish a policy and ensure that staff are aware of it
  • Avoid confrontation and do not put staff at risk of attack or injury
  • Train staff in counterfeit detection by using education materials available free of charge from the Bank of England
  • Where possible retain the counterfeit note(s) and ask for an alternative means of payment. Take the customer’s details and give them a receipt, so they can be reimbursed by the Bank of England if the notes are found to be genuine.
  • Call the police as soon as possible and give them the counterfeit notes, or take them to the police station later if requested by them.

Cash in transit robberies continue to be a major problem in the UK. To make this a less attractive crime the Bank works with the cash industry to promote the use of dye staining devices in cash boxes so that stolen notes are easily recognisable. For further information visit

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