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Is Coronavirus accelerating a cashless society?
Posted: 19th Jan 2021

A rapid decline in cash use in recent years has already given cause for concern in the UK, with the Access to Cash Review launched in July 2018 in response to this growing issue. Their report published in March 2019 stated that, over the previous ten years, cash payments dropped from 63% of all payments to 34%, and that 17% of the UK population (over 8 million adults) would struggle to cope in a cashless society. Of the participants surveyed 97% carried cash on them, with an average value of £41, and 85% keep cash in the home averaging an £84 stash.

Fast forward to 2021 and consumer group Which? says 34% of people have been unable to pay with cash at least once since March 2020 when attempting a purchase, listing grocery stores, pubs and restaurants the most likely to refuse.

Access to Cash continues to lobby the government to introduce legislation to protect the viability of cash. It says the decline or even disappearance in usage of coins and notes will adversely affect people without digital access, those with certain health conditions and those who rely on cash to effectively manage expenditure. Additionally 1.3m people in the UK are classified by the Financial Conduct Authority as ‘unbanked’, meaning they do not have a bank account, for reasons such as no permanent address, inability to open an account independently (such as illiteracy) and, for one third of this group, choosing not to have a bank account due to previous difficulties such as overspending.

Whilst many of us prefer the convenience and insight we get from using credit and debit cards, whether physical or via digital loaded onto our phones, there are some times using cash is quicker and easier – such as donating to charity, giving gifts or when making small purchases without needing to spend a minimum amount. And, it shouldn’t be forgotten, we’ve probably all experienced the feeling of a card machine not connecting, or car park machine cardreader being out of action – where would we be without that cash we carry “just in case”!

Read our previous blog: Could you live in a cashless society?

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