/ Money

Could you stand a future without cash?

Pound sign in flames

How much do you use cash when you’re out and about? As debit card spending overtakes cash for the first time, it’s looking possible that we might one day live in a society free of notes and coins.

One day, the rattle of change in your pocket might be a distant memory.

Pool tables and vending machines might no longer accept coins – penny pushing arcade machines might shunt their last penny, and beggars won’t bother asking if you’ve got any spare change.

This day might be a long way off yet, but given that data from the UK Payments Council (UKPC) shows debit card spending overtook cash for the first time this year, it’s not inconceivable that notes and coins might eventually lose their value in the eyes of consumers.

Figures show there were 1.6 million more transactions on debit cards every day between July and September compared with the same time last year – a hefty 11% increase.

As UKPC points out, we’ve come to expect debit cards to be accepted everywhere we go – from the high street to the pub. They’re nimbler and sleeker than cash, all is not lost if they’re mislaid and they can be used abroad without the fuss of changing money.

A future without cash

Contactless debit cards promise to make spending an even swifter proposition, with cards simply waved at a payment terminal for transactions under £15 – Café Nero and Subway are among the retailers already supporting the technology.

So what’s the future for cash – a payment method dating back to ancient Greece that has served humankind well for the last two thousand years?

Is it conceivable that one day we might see a world without cumbersome coins or nuisance notes? Certainly it’s not something we should worry about in the short term, but given that cheques are to be phased out in the coming years, might cash be next?

Sophie Gilbert says:
10 December 2010

I heard about these contactless debit cards being simply waved at a payment terminal for transactions under £15, on Money Box, Radio 4. I can safely assert that if my bank decides to compulsorily issue me with such I card I will never use it for purchases under £15, and this is what I will tell my bank if someone nicks my card and decides to make a string of purchases under £15. Instead I will use cash or credit cards, as most shops now accept the use of the latter for purchases well under a fiver. I will revise the situation if and when cash and credit cards disappear.

The advantage of cash is that it is obvious how much you have and when it is gone it is gone, no essing. If you are trying to be economical, then the discipline of cash is very useful. You cannot go on until your bank account is empty, only until your pocket is. If you wish to keep a tight hold on your mfnances go out with only limited amount of cash, even if you ave a debit card and a credit card you can use the cash and stop when it runs out. I would not want to be without it.

I would like to use a pre-loaded cash card for all small purchases provided that:
a) it didn’t cost too much per transaction or to reload with cash
b) provided no organisation could use it to monitor details of every purchase
c) that I could reload it quickly and securely by internet, text message or automated ‘phone call
d) that it was widely accepted. (unlike my current cashcard which is not accepted by Lidl)

LN says:
3 May 2015

It’s against the data protection laws to force us into a technology that makes every purchase we make subect to possible surveillance and intervention. Cash is anonymous and this is why it is being phased out. How would you feel if you decided to buy a second ice-cream and a message appeared on your phone saying your payment had been declined, as you are already overweight and diabetic and a second ice-cream is denied. Cigarettes denied, Whisky denied, Fish and chips denied, extra tax charges imposed if you do go ahead (based on the medical risk of your behaviour.

I had a debit card off Barclays with the contactless logo on. I told barclays i thought it was a risk if i lost my card and asked for a non contactless card and they changed my card with no fuss.