What would a cashless society mean for you ?

Have you ever gone to the till to pay for an item, handed over cash from your pocket and had it refused? As cashless payment methods, such as digital payments by smartphone, become increasingly popular, many businesses are no longer accepting cash.

Or at the very least, many are openly asking if their customers can avoid using cash to make a payment.

According to research by LINK, nearly half of UK consumers have been somewhere that cash payments have either not been accepted or actively discouraged.

But are the businesses adopting this practice overestimating the appeal of cashless solutions, and potentially alienating those who prefer the alternative?

The figures certainly suggest so, as 49 per cent of people surveyed by LINK said being unable to pay in cash or being discouraged from doing so was inconvenient.

However, this is causing more than minor grumbles. For example, 13 per cent of those polled said they find it harder to keep track of their finances if they have to make card payments in shops rather than use cash.

An important point given the current economic climate, when households are under huge financial pressure and actively counting the pennies much more, especially when it comes to buying food.

Figures from LINK also showed that nearly three-quarters of shoppers used cash in the two weeks leading up to the survey, while over one in three said their use of cash would stay the same for the next six months.

That’s not a small minority of people, and many will probably use a mix of cash and cashless solutions day to day.

So while alternatives such as contactless and mobile payments are clearly popular with millions of people, and look set to remain so, that doesn’t have to mean that cash is taken off the table as a payment option.

It was interesting to note the specific locations where cash acceptance was found to be particularly limited, with car parks, cafes, restaurants and public transport leading the way.

It’s fair to say that these are places used by people of all ages and from all walks of life, so it could be short-sighted of them to rule out or discourage cash payments.

Many of the older generation, for example, may feel far more comfortable paying for goods and services with coins and notes than with an app on a smartphone.

As a separate study by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce revealed, 19 per cent of Britons believe they’d struggle to cope in a cashless society, and while 29 per cent say they would be able to cope, it would still be a major inconvenience to them.

So while consumer behaviour is changing, fuelled by factors such as the pandemic and the ever-growing capabilities of digital technology, cash remains a valuable option for many people.

Perhaps true progress means giving people a genuine choice of payment options, with cash sitting happily alongside contactless and Google Pay, so everyone’s preferences can easily be met and people aren’t excluded.