/ Money

Are we ready for a cashless society?

Money on chess board

The use of cash to pay for goods and services is falling rapidly in the UK as we dig out the plastic to make purchases. Are you ready to live in a world where cash is no longer king?

The use of cash for retail spending has dropped 14% in the past five years, according to the British Retail Consortium. And a separate report by Halifax found that only £17.99 of every £100 that’s spent by its customers is spent in cash, a £3.03 fall on 2013.

What’s driving this?

Well, you can now find a debit and credit card terminal in almost any shop, and further payment innovations, such as contactless cards and mobile banking apps are making cashless payment increasingly convenient. A cashless society feels closer than ever.

London buses stop cash payments

Supporters argue that cashless transactions increase efficiency. Small businesses, for example, spend an estimated £3,600 a year on cash handling. In fact, more and more services are going cashless – London buses will stop accepting your pennies this summer.

Nevertheless, the security implications of a cashless economy are vast – all transactions could be monitored, for example. But with so much cashless shopping taking place, that horse may have already bolted. And while some crime, such as bank robbery and money laundering, could be more difficult in a cashless society, opportunities for fraud could increase. With card fraud up 16% in 2013, that’s something to keep an eye on.

For me, the convenience and efficiency of cashless payments outweigh the disadvantages, provided adequate safeguards are in place. If we are to let go of our notes and coins, banks and retailers must invest in systems that protect our money – and privacy – so that we feel assured to spend with freedom and confidence.


Doug, before we get too worked up, I think this is not an official proposal (e.g.from retailers or banks), simply a comment from Which? to get some feedback! I believe what they are saying is most of us use much less cash in transactions than we used to, and there are benefits to us, and to business. I don’t think they are really suggesting that a no-cash society is an aim, or on the horizon. I agree with almost all the respondents – it would be a ridiculous and wholly impractical proposition.


I agree with Malcolm. I have also been strongly opposed to the abolition of cheques because I cannot see any practical alternative for some transactions.

Libby says:
29 June 2014

I use a card in all the shops that will take them. BUT surely most of us constantly need money for all sorts of small transactions. Here are some of mine:
Sharing a car for outings
a collection for a charity
a present for someone special, like a grandchild
market stalls in a small market town
using public toilets.
buying a ticket for a local event such as for a theatre group, concert or other amateur actities
and even for those small one offs, as buying a newspaper or a single bottle of milk.

Hilary Porter says:
30 June 2014

So the use of cash has fallen by 14%. Big deal – still means it is used 86%.


No it doesn’t. Harry has said that the use of cash for retail spending has dropped 14% in the past five years. Even ignoring the newer ways of payment, debit and credit cards have been extensively used for decades.


Hilary, There are two “statistics” in the intro. The BRC say cash use has dropped 14% in 5 years. Halifax say their customers now spend £17.99 in cash out of every £100 – £3.03 less than in 2013. So Halifax’s drop is also 14% – but, as I read it, in just 1 year apparently. Quite how they can compare now – when we are only half way through the year 2014 – with all of 2013 I don’t know. But either I have misinterpreted the intro, or someone else has misread the Halifax figures.
Assuming Halifax’s £17.99 is correct, we spend 82.01% in ways other than cash. What this does not indicate, however, is how many TRANSACTIONS are made in cash – and I’ll lay a bitcoin to a penny that it is an awful lot. This would be a much better indicator of the role, and convenience of cash.


In an idle moment I calculated that over a year, around 7% of my spend is in cash, but that amounts to between 40 and 50% of the total number of transactions. A long time before I’ll be joining a cashless society.


Although I’ve not quantified it, my figures over the last few years have been remarkably similar

Hilton D says:
1 July 2014

The Banks also say less people are using cheques, but that’s because Shops decline to accept them – in turn, because the Banks have withdrawn the cheque guarantee clause on Debit Cards applicable to Merchants. I still use cheques to pay for certain bills (Council Tax, Credit card statements etc).

The requirement of paying Utility Bills by Direct Debit is created by those companies and Banks to steer people away from paper bills & using cash/cheques “in order to keep costs down” – Theirs!

If we are approaching a cashless society, perhaps we better advise the BOE to cancel printing the next £5 & £10 notes!