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Average Brit goes 44 days without using cash

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Written by: Emma Lunn
10/06/2020
The UK has turned to contactless payments during lockdown with a fifth of people going two months or more without using cash.

Customer data from Nationwide Building Society shows that tap-and-pay transactions have increased by 44% since the week of 23 March when the UK was asked to stay at home.

The society’s customer data  shows that the society’s members made 78.5 million contactless payments between 23 March and 31 May, totalling nearly £957m.

Nationwide also polled more than 2,000 people and found that more than a quarter (27%) have gone two months or more without using notes and coins to pay for anything. For some, it’s even longer as nearly a third (32%) admitted they didn’t remember what they last bought with cash.

A week-by-week analysis highlighted an increase in the number of transactions, and spend, as the nation moved further into lockdown. There were 7.15 million contactless payments (totalling £77.27m) made in week commencing 23 March compared to 10.31 million (totalling £128.13m) made during the week of 25 May.

Despite six in 10 (62%) people admitting to using cash less often since lockdown, this trend could outlast the outbreak. According to Nationwide’s research, half (50%) of respondents say they will use cash less in future.

More than a third (35%) of this group said this is because they are worried about using cash as a result of Covid-19, while 61% have started using other methods to make payments.

Payments aside, a third of Brits (33%) have used lockdown to try out mobile and online banking for the first time, while a quarter (25%) say this period had made them more comfortable with making mobile payments.

Mark Nalder, Nationwide’s head of payments, says: “As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, it is evident the pandemic could have a lasting impact on how people pay for things. Far from heralding the death of cash, a shift towards mobile payments and online and mobile banking will help people keep track of their spending and better manage their money.

“Although we don’t expect cash to return to pre Covid-19 levels, it is highly likely cash usage will increase post-lockdown as the high street begins to reopen, even if that means the use of card payments – via contactless, phone or another device – rise in tandem.”

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, says: “While it’s encouraging that more people are able to turn to digital payment methods during the coronavirus crisis, banks and businesses must not neglect those who have no choice but to rely on cash to pay for essential products and services, particularly as many are vulnerable consumers.

“The sharp decline in cash use during the pandemic risks bringing forward the cliff-edge moment when our fragile cash system could collapse completely. The government must urgently introduce announced legislation protecting cash access to ensure consumers have access to cash for as long as they need it.”

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