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Cash use continues to decline

UK cash payments fall by 50% over past 10 years

January 14, 2020

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Market commentary by Luisa Grey, Director, Eazipay Ltd

We’re hearing more and more talk of the a ‘cashless society’. Almost every day there is another story in the media of bank branches and rural ATMs closing, or pubs, restaurants, charities and shops going cashless. A ‘cashless society’ is now a familiar and well used phrase. And rightly so…

Ten years ago, six out of every ten transactions in the UK were cash. Now it’s three in ten. And, according to Access To Cash’s ‘Access To Cash Review Final Report’, in fifteen years’ time, it could be as low as one in ten.

While many believe the UK is still someway from a complete ‘cashless society’, we are certainly heading that way. Over the last ten years cash payments have dropped from 63% of all payments to just 34%.

The key driver behind this has been the growth in debit card payments: now the UK’s most frequent payment method. A total of 98% of adults have a debit card, and they’re using them more and more. In fact, there were 13.2 billion debit card payments in 2017, up 14% from 2016.

According to the Access To Cash report, a straight-line projection would see cash use end entirely by 2026. UK Finance, the industry association for banks and payment providers, however, predicts that cash will fall to 16% of payments by 2027 – down from 34% today.

Sweden remains at the vanguard of the recent move away from cash, as debit cards, credit cards, phone payment methods and apps and online transfers predominate.

In the UK, even at cafes and pubs where people buy smaller value items, card payments have taken over. Pub chain Wetherspoon reported that the proportion of cash payments had fallen by around five percentage points every year for the past four years, dropping from 78% of all purchases to 60%.

As few as one in 10 customers now pay in cash at cafes in the UK – and more are jettisoning cash altogether.

So what’s driving down the use of cash?

Increased acceptability of cards, increased use of online shopping, increased use of cards and mobile apps on public transport, problems and costs of processing and banking cash for retailers - especially as it becomes less common -, increased broadband coverage and mobile connectivity, accelerated closure of bank branches and ATMs, and new innovative services such as biometrics, which make digital payments even easier, are all factors that affect the pace of change.

For many of us the decline in the use of cash is down to speed and convenience. Cash can be fast, but a contactless tap is faster and doesn’t leave you with a handful of change. For cashiers, baristas and anyone working behind a bar, cards are quicker and easier: no grubby notes and no change to count!

There are other advantages to going digital as well. Transactions are recorded on bank statements – which means you can quickly find a missing £10 by checking your balance via online banking or your bank’s mobile app.

Using digital and card payments can also offer more control. If you spot a deal or a bargain, you don’t need to count the cash in your pocket or find an ATM.

And it’s not just debit and credit cards that have been creating the headlines. Britain’s love of Direct Debit and Bacs Direct Credit payments continue to set new records.

According to Bacs, which is now part of leading retail payments authority, Pay.UK, a new record of over 124 million payments were processed in just one day in December 2019.

That’s a million more than the previous high set in 2018 and the equivalent of 8 million payments each hour the processing window was open (15.5 hours), or just over 133,000 every minute.

Direct Debits soared to nearly 4.4 billion transactions in 2018 – which is more than eight Direct Debits for every UK adult - while Bacs Direct Credit - used to pay wages, salaries, pensions, and benefits, as well as supplier payments - saw values of almost £3.63 billion.

With figures like these, and the ‘cashless society’ well under way, it looks pretty certain that the future lies with automated payments like Direct Debit and the humble, ubiquitous plastic card…

For further press information, please contact:

Damion Clark at Real PR (Consultants) LLP. Tel: 01353 667934 or 07789 911314 Email: damion@realpublicrelations.com

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