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Half of the UK would find a cashless society ‘problematic’

Half of the UK would find a cashless society ‘problematic’
Matt Browning
Written By:
Matt Browning
Posted:
20/05/2024
Updated:
20/05/2024

Half of the UK would find a cashless society problematic to deal with, according to an ATM network's study.

Millions are braced for a potential struggle, too, as just under half of the UK also think the use of cash will be phased out in their lifetime – a rise of 7% who thought so in 2019.

However, the number of people comfortable with the changing landscape has crept up by 6%, with 39% believing they wouldn’t find the move an issue.

While there has been a third less money withdrawn at ATMs (£209m to £109m) in the last five years, seven in 10 (71%) respondents surveyed by LINK still said they used cash in the last fortnight.

A total of 15% of the 2,000 respondents confirmed they never carried cash, which is up from 4% five years ago when the Access to Cash Review took place.

Number of Brits carrying cash has dropped to below a fifth

If shoppers are keeping cash, they are most likely to carry between £10 and £20, according to the UK’s cash access and ATM network’s study. But the number of people doing so has dropped from over a fifth in 2019 (21%) to 18% in 2024.

Further, with many opting to use digital payment methods like Apple Pay or Google Pay to purchase items, there has also been a reduction in the number of customers heading to bank branches in the last year.

However, a preview of what a cashless society might look like has already caused issues for many spenders, as one in five Brits said they were inconvenienced by not being able to use their notes last year.

Nearly half (45%) had visited a venue that hadn’t accepted or discouraged the use of cash, the cash access network revealed. This was most prevalent in restaurants, cafés and parking machines.

‘Three million still without smartphones’

Despite the age of ever-growing app use and bank transfers, Natalie Ceeney, chair of the Access to Cash Review, insists “people need cash for a wide range of reasons, and the barriers to using digital payments are very real.”

Ceeney said: “There are still over three million adults in the UK without a smartphone; with fraud accounting for 40% of all crime, there are many who are frightened of being scammed, over a million people who don’t have a bank account, and almost a million people in the UK live with dementia.

“Even many digitally savvy consumers find it easier to budget with cash. We are certainly not ready to become a cashless society.”

Ceeney added: “But one recommendation that I made has not been implemented, which is the need to include everyone in a digital society.

“There are ways that we could increase people’s confidence, capability and access to digital payments safely – which would be good for society as well as individuals. Just as industry and Government came together to protect cash, we need to do the same to make digital services a safe and effective choice for more people.”