Cash is spiralling out of favour as 7.4m Brits go card-only

By Oliver Smith on Thursday 4 June 2020

Digital Banking

With contactless accounting for over 40% of all card payments.

Cash is spiralling out of favour as 7.4m Brits go card-only
Image source: Austin Distel/Unsplash.

Millions of UK spenders nearly ditched cash entirely from their day-to-day lives last year, with the latest figures showing card payments now account for over half (51 per cent) of all consumer spending.

The figures, revealed by banking industry group UK Finance, come just days after consumer group Which? launched a campaign calling on the government to protect the cash system.

“Vulnerable people are at risk of being left with no way to pay for essential products and services as the coronavirus crisis accelerates the move to a cashless society,” Which? wrote.

According to UK Finance the number of people not using cash at all, or only using it one a month, doubled between 2017 and 2019 with now more than 7.4m people abandoning physical money.

The loss of cash wasn't just among young people, with seven percent of those 65 or older counted among the cashless millions.

In addition, these UK Finance figures don’t yet take into account the spending sea change happening in 2020, where cash has become the villain in many countries as a key carrier of coronavirus.

As we’ve written before, coronavirus could mean 2020 is the year that cash finally loses its fight against card and contactless.

UK Finance CEO Stephen Jones said: “the impact of Covid-19 may accelerate these habits [of contactless payments and remote banking] for many customers; however, we are fully aware that not all customers are digitally-enabled which is why we are working flat out to ensure people have access to cash and everyday banking services remain available to help the country through these difficult times.”

On contactless specifically the figures show adoption of contactless payments rose a further 16 per cent to 8.6bn payments in 2019, accounting for nearly half (42.3 per cent) of all card payments.

Looking towards 2020 however UK Finance said the impact of coronavirus made: “analysis of payment trends and forecasts particularly challenging as it is not yet clear the impact on consumer and business behaviour.”

“UK Finance will be monitoring the next phase of the crisis in order to determine what impact, if any, the experiences of 2020 have had on consumers’ preferences about how they pay for things.”

Read more: Cash is a sinking ship, and coronavirus might be its final voyage

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