Nearly 50 million plastic £5 and £10 notes have had to be replaced since being launched by the Bank of England due to wear and damage.
Around 20 million of the Bank’s polymer £5 notes, sporting a portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, have been replaced in the three years since they were introduced.
And about another 26 million plastic £10 notes have also been replaced since they were launched in September 2017.
The figures could raise further questions over the durability of the plastic notes following claims some of the security features – including the Queen’s face – can be rubbed off.
This issue sparked fears that fakes were in circulation in 2017 after police discovered notes that appeared to be missing the foil image of Big Ben, only to be told by the Bank that the feature had peeled away or rubbed off.
There have also been reports the notes are particularly prone to domestic accidents – and can shrink to a quarter of their size if exposed to a hot iron while hidden inside a pocket.
Tea and red wine stains can also deface the new polymer notes, it has been claimed.
The Bank has since said its new plastic notes are “not indestructible”, despite their durability being key to moving away from paper money.
It insists the plastic fivers will last two-and-a-half times longer than the paper ones.
The figures were released following a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association.
In response, the Bank said the damage so far to the plastic notes “mainly relates to folds, tears, holes and foil wear”.
The Bank said: “While we expect the polymer notes to have a longer life, it is too early in the note’s lifecycle to yet understand the rate of replacement of polymer notes.”
Bank governor Mark Carney said in the most recent annual report: “The quality and security of banknotes are also central to monetary stability.
“Polymer notes are safer than paper notes, and last more than twice as long.
“They are also better for the environment due to both their longevity and recyclability.”