/ Money

Do you splash your cash or pay with plastic?

Close-up of cash

Cash is the most popular way to pay in UK shops according to the British Retail Consortium. So do you prefer to flash the plastic or stump up the cash when you’re shopping?

The new research looked at 10bn retail payments made last year, and found that just over half of all transactions were made in cold, hard cash.

Personally, I almost always pay for things using my debit card – the second most popular payment type accounting for 30% of transactions.

But this is mainly because I’m just not in the habit of going to a cashpoint. I don’t feel comfortable carrying more than about £20 in cash, and £20 definitely wouldn’t cover a weekly shop at my local supermarket.

That said, only change will do for the local corner shop. When I’m picking up a pint of milk (and the odd packet or two of Jaffa Cakes), my local shop has a minimum card limit of £10. The change in question tends to be kept in various pots around my room from where I’ve emptied my purse out periodically. And this brings me to another bugbear of using cash – it can be heavy!

Can cash and cards help you budget?

I suspect that most people have a primary preference for using a particular payment method. But of course, there will always be occasions when you need to be flexible.

I’ve seen friends try to be careful with their money over the years, often by trying to limit their spending to one payment method or another. For example, one friend likes to set themselves a cash budget for the week when times are getting tight, leaving the cards at home to avoid temptation. This works for her, but personally, if I’ve got a purse full of notes, I automatically feel richer than I really am. And this can only lead to trouble.

Another of my friends likes to pay for all their food shopping and socialising expenses on one credit card, which then gets paid off at the end of the month. This means it’s easy to see at a glance how much has been spent on non-essentials, and can work to scare you into spending less. I’m planning to try this one soon myself.

I also have a friend whose boyfriend puts her credit card in the freezer so it has to be defrosted before use, making impulse purchasing impossible. A novel idea, but I’m not sure it would work for me.

What is your preferred payment method? Do you find that paying a certain way makes it easier for you to budget effectively?

What is your preferred payment method for shopping?

Plastic (credit or debit cards) (78%, 320 Votes)

Cash (21%, 87 Votes)

Other (tell us in the comments) (1%, 3 Votes)

Cheques (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 410

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I tend to use my credit card for every purchase going. Something about earning interest on that money for as long as possible although nowadays there’s hardly any interest to be had. And have a direct debit setup to pay it off in full every month.

P.S. Jaffa cakes 60p for a box of 12 in Sainsburys atm


What a bargain, thanks for the tip!


I generally use cards to pay for purchases over £10. I prefer to pay by credit card but will switch to debit card if there is a surcharge. With small businesses ask how they would prefer to be paid, aware of the cost of processing a credit card transaction. The reason I like credit cards is that I can be sure that I have sufficient money in my bank account to pay the bill, which is done by monthly direct debit.

I use several companies that don’t have card facilities and prefer cheques or cash. Most are small businesses, but one is a city centre branch of a national copying and printing company. They are always happy to send out an invoice, so anyone who turns up without cash or cheques will not be disappointed. Very quaint but very helpful too.

I love your anecdote about the guy who keeps his card in the freezer, Catherine.


I use cash in small shops or for small purchases, a debit card for consumables, and a credit card [or store card where applicable] for major purchases, permanent articles, on-line purchases, and anything where I want the S75 protection. I always keep some £1 and 10/- notes in my wallet in case of emergencies.


10/- notes? has anyone else picked up on this? last time they were in issue was 1970 I think!


You are obviously not familiar with John’s fine sense of humour, Lorna. 🙂

The comment has already been commented on.


It depends on the cost of the purchase and how much I have in my purse.
Generally I pay for low value purchases by cash and purchases over £20 or so by debit card. I often get cash back when I pay by debit card to save me going to the bank. I use credit cards for higher value items and for flights and holidays. I get an extra years warranty on TV’s and kitchen appliances, etc. when I pay for them using my Nationwide credit card.

richard says:
5 June 2013

I always pay by credit card if possible – because I can follow all purchases on-line which gives a better idea and record of my daily finances rather than paper receipts which can get lost (First Direct is brilliant for this ) – Debit card only used for cash out of ATM as it a direct connection to my current account and is less secure if used for retail purchases – I carry around £100 cash for emergency payments to those who don’t have credit card facilities. But I access my credit card details on-line at least once a week – normally more – to ensure any possible fraudulent activity can be detected early – and I always pay of all credit card debts on the same day every month without fail – I never have a credit card balance that incurs an interest charge,