/ 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.


We certainly use cash much less than we used to for our purchases. But all you have to do is mislay your cash-substitute card, and you’re stuffed. What would children do? Will they all have to have bank accounts and cards? What about the elderly who are so often maligned as being unable to deal with an electronic society – but some will have difficulty? How will you hide money from the taxman !? But most important – what do you do about transactions between individuals who won’t have electronic terminals? This is all a bit like cheques – other means have taken a lot of their uses away, but a significant residue remains. So it will be with cash.

I still pay for my oil by cheque and also my aga service every six months[bit like the dentist isn’t it] except I am on P Credit. I am hoping none of those will go cashless. Also I feel that this could be the thin end of the wedge in a way for what is going to happen to those who produce the cash, more people out of work. I thought this government was trying to get people into work, the sums are not adding up somehow

Malcolm’s point about mislaid cards is quite relevant for me. Before I set off on holiday I left my wallet containing a debit card, credit card and cash at a friends business premises. I have managed to cope because I have a second credit card and will be able to transfer funds to a friend’s account in exchange for cash.

I have used my debit card for a few contactless payments without problem, so unless I hear of security issues I will probably use it more. But not this week or next because it is locked in my friend’s safe. 🙁

Both my debit and credit cards are contactless but I have never used that element of either and do not want to because I do not want my statements of accounts cluttered with small amounts. I want full control of what appears on my accounts/statements and seeing small amounts (like a supermarket shopping receipt) will not make my job of checking through my statements any easier.

However, if I had a separate bank account specifically for contactless payments then I would be quite happy to use the debit card contactless payment system. One account for the small contactless payments and another account for my current items (the big important stuff) i.e. the bills/direct debits/standing orders/transfers/cash withdrawals. The contactless method of payment will only be used then.

No, a cashless society is a terrible idea. I prefer cash for most things and will go on using it. I never buy anything in a shop on a card and prefer to know exactly where I am up to with my money. Also if you lose you card its always good to have some case until its sorted.

It also gives too much power to the banks and government who can cut you off with the press of a button.

My bank recently sent me new card with the contactless chip on. I rang them an told them I didn’t want it so they sent me new one without it.

Surely the comment “With card fraud up 16% in 2013” requires more than a ‘passing comment, “that’s something to keep an eye on”. Why aren’t the banks and authorities doing more about this.

Similarly your final comment says it all. Why are you not focusing more on what needs to done about safeguards.

“For me, the convenience and efficiency of cashless payments outweigh the disadvantages, provided adequate safeguards are in place”

Until I see more positive action I shall vote NO

We usually stay at b&b’s when on holiday, and none of them accept credit cards as they say it costs too much for the amount of business they do. The same with window cleaners, milkmen, and other one man businesses etc..
But all of these will accept cheques if they have known you for some time.
We use credit cards for most shopping if it is over £10, or if we are buying an expensive item,.
So NO to a contactless and banking app society.

Take a look at the Mondex programme from the mid-1990s. It aimed to deliver a cashless society. Great thinking from 20 years ago.

RogerF says:
27 June 2014

I made a small purchase recently and offered my card for payment. The trader refused to accept it on the grounds that the sale was under £5. Presumably the bank charges would take most (if not all) of his profit, so it was cash or no sale! Can’t see market traders wanting to bother with cards either for the same reason – bank charges and the reliability of mobile internet.

Get rid of cheques. Get rid of cash. All ideas from the greedy banks who just want to make more money to increase the pay of overpaid fat cats. Yes I agree it will come eventually, but please all you financial whizz kids you have to offer better value for money options and consider ALL your customers.

DerekP says:
27 June 2014

How would I negotiate cash discounts or tip in restuarants without cash?

Peter Clarke says:
27 June 2014

I support a steady move towards a cashless society. There should be legislation to progressively make it illegal to pay in cash, starting with transactions of, say, £50 and above and working steadily downwards, so that all but the most trivial amounts have to go through the bank. Apart from saving retailers a lot of time and cost in handling cash, it will reduce tax evasion which happens on a massive scale. Ever been offered a lower price for cash??

Kess says:
29 June 2014

So how do you propose small market stall holders cope or other instances?
I think stating it should be made illegal is a bit draconian to be honest. We are all consumers and as far as I am aware do want choices or are you suggesting a 1984 type country?
Sometimes I am down to my last £2 in change as I don’t have enough in the bank to take out or don’t have a round number I can withdraw or pay with.
I must admit 90 per cent of my transactions are with debit card however being on a low income I rely on small change and cash to pay for things I can’t via debit card.
Why should it be made illegal? Computers and systems do mess up and in my experience almost every weekend my bank has maintenance going to so it can maintain online banking and payments. Meaning I cannot access my account to pay for things.
I have also not been able to pay a bill because of a problem with the bank or company and have gone to pay cash so it gets paid on time.
I also live near a market and often the transactions are lots of £1’s or 50ps for fruit and veg.
How to you propose to make it viable for these traders to only accept card payments?
As I live in London TFL are bringing in cashless bus fares. They oyster card will allow you to go *one stop more * however I do not live directly near an oyster top up shop. I cannot walk far at the moment as I have had surgery and those with mobility problems (and I am not talking about older people) will find going cashless very hard. It also puts pressure on those on lower incomes.
Sometimes I only have the cash fare, as otherwise I’d have to go to the bank, put in the £2 or whatever and then use a contact-less card which can only pay for me not my partner.
This also means I cannot use my concessionary oyster card.
Sometimes we have our bus fare in small change and do not have this in the bank.

Implementing a cashless society is all very well however until support and infrastructure is put in place it’s a dangerous thing and misses the point we should have a choice as to how we pay.

steve says:
7 January 2015

You sound like a banker up to screw the poor bravo fool

cashless, definitely – I’m already using my debit card for nearly everything.
Keep a £20 note just for those rare cases where cash is required.
I hate those parking machines that are cash or call only – they should all have a “contact-less” reader.

Regarding elderly people, well, looking at the speed of this processes, we will probably be the elderly people before this will happen so… I don’t think that will be the issue 🙂

Kess says:
29 June 2014

Not necessarily. I am 31 and have mobility problems and am on a low income. While I us debit cards for most things, cash is used for smaller items like market trader fruit and veg, small drinks and bus fares.
Debit cards are not always accepted for something that costs 50p or they have a min purchase or a charge. I don’t always have £1 in my bank but have the 50p for my drink in my hand.

When I am 60 unless small business and market traders have been able to implement a way to get around these difficulties I will stay pay cash and I will still want to pay cash.
As a consumer it is my choice and works best for my situation. As an older person of the future and someone who has grown up with technology I am level headed enough to understand choice is best and that technology is not always the best way forward as things can and do go wrong.
When I am 70 and rely on a small pension it may as it does now mean I cannot access debit card money all the time and may have small change to pay for things I wish to pay for.

Personally, I hope to be able to use cash until I die. I also use cheques a fair amount, and do not, and never will use a cash-point. Banks would no doubt like to do away with cash just as they would like to do away with cheques, but so far they have failed to do so. For my modest needs, I see no advantage in doing away with either.

sybilmari says:
27 June 2014

There are things one just can’t do meaningfully without cash: give a grandchild a couple of pounds for his money box; give a friend in need or a daughter some cash towards their petrol on the way home; buy small items without giving address details to a shop on their system (they get it from the electronic transaction). I’m sure there are plenty of others if I took time to list them. Then what happens if out finances are all controlled electronically. Given security issues we have already experienced, who’s to say someone isn’t just going to press a button and delete us? All electronic – NO THANKS.

I use a credit card for all but the smallest transactions and pay the monthly statement in full and by direct debit. This way I can see all my monthly spend on one statement and using a card is so convenient. I’m always amazed at the number of people who won’t use pay at pump facilities at petrol stations but instead go into the kiosk and pay by card yet are happy to use ATMs. Having said that I think cash will be needed for a long time yet for older people (I am 67) who don’t like/use cards.

peterdominic says:
27 June 2014


ErikFBerger says:
27 June 2014

The “cashless economy” is just PR-spin by the bankers. Once cash is gone they can increase the card fees and extract 1 to 3 percent of the entire economy as the only gatekeepers. It is also an extremely vulnerable system. We need functioning backup systems for power outages, IT failures or bank strikes.

In addition, the cashless society is an Orwellian nightmare. The mass surveillance bureaucracy will be able to track your every payment and no one knows when and how that information will come back and bite you in the back. It will be impossible to do legal things anonymously, for example, travel to another town to cheat on your partner. That information might end up in a divorce court. We live in a democracy today, but that can change into something much more authoritarian where for example dissidents risk losing their jobs or have their children taken away from them. If that happens, it will be impossible to organise opposition. It will be impossible to financially support activism and opposition groups that the government has decided to ban.

Robert C says:
27 June 2014

A cashless option is fine – a cashless travel card for the occasional user or even to use in shops too saves carrying heavy coins. However to make it mandatory – the only option – is silly. If I go to London for a day out, how am I supposed to know that they do not accept money ? What sort of card do I need and where do I get it? Sudden decision to go tomorrow, can I download one this evening?

I don’t normally check “do they take money” before going somewhere, should I check if they still accept cash in the Lake District.

If cashless cards are so good, they will catch on and we will all have them.

Although I appreciate not having to lug around large pocketfuls of change, there is a lot to be said for retaining the informality of cash. I do use plastic for large purchases, but do a lot of my small and medium purchases via cash.

I am not sure that I am quite ready to allow state or corporate institutions to be able to analyse every purchase I make for the rest of my life – if that makes them feel less secure or less powerful, I could care less…

What an absurd idea! The Big Brother brigade and geeks are at it again. How long would it be before the banks greed got the upper hand and charges introduced for ALL transactions? How would we stop electronic surveillance by government and local authorities eager to intrude into our private lives? How would I tip? Would street performers and beggars have to carry card machines? If my cards are stolen I normally have some cash in my pocket for immediate use.

Ever been stuck in a queue waiting for someone to transact a card payment for a trivial amount (e.g. bus fare). From your remark about London buses, do they now carry card machines? Or will I need to make special preparations if I ever find myself in London?

How would I give my granddaughters a few bob (if anyone knows what a ‘bob’ is these days) spending money? What about penny arcade slot machines? Will children no longer be taught how to calculate money?

I use cards quite a bit, but not for small amounts, cash is far more convenient. Cash is ‘coin of the realm’ and legal tender; does anyone have the right to refuse it for payment?

With card payment forced on us for everything how long before the criminal fraternity jump on the fraud bandwagon?

I could go on……

A ridiculous idea!

steve says:
7 January 2015

If you ever come to london you will spend half the day looking for a shop to top up your oyster card an you will probably have to catch a bus to find one an no chance of them letting you on enjoy the walk