How can we prepare for a cashless society?

Once upon a time, we used to be weighed down by coins, and more often than not had a £10 note on hand whenever we needed one. Today, this isn’t always the case – we are fast becoming a cashless society. But are we prepared for it? And will everyone be able to cope with the change?

A cashless society

Stepping away from cash payments, individuals today are choosing to use their debit and credit cards or their phones to pay for even the smallest purchases. Because of this, we are experiencing a decline in ATMs, and it’s been reported that they are disappearing at a rapid rate of 300 a month.

In 2017, debit card transactions overtook their cash equivalents. Many believe that using a card is safer, quicker and more convenient.

Contactless payments

Today, many of us choose to hover our contactless card over the machine for items under £30. Nowadays, these cards are typically linked to smartphone apps, so sometimes we don’t even need to bring our wallets or purses out with us.

Contactless and mobile payments have become increasingly popular – so much so that one in ten adults in the UK are choosing to live a cashless life. Among Millennials – those aged 25 to 34 – the figure rises to more than one in six.

By favouring contactless over cash, we can keep a detailed record of what we are spending, as well as budget accordingly. So, do we actually need notes?

Potential negative effects of a cashless society

If the UK does become a cashless society, many would struggle to cope. This is highlighted by Chair of the Independent Access to Cash Review, Natalie Ceeney, who stated that her real fear “is that we are sleepwalking into a future where millions get left behind. If all the shops, banks and hospitals go cashless how are we going to support the vulnerable, disabled and less well-off who rely on cash?”

Withdrawing cash helps many to budget. When cash runs out, you cannot become overdrawn, or be hit with charges. Older generations also rely on it, and smaller businesses could lose customers if cash wasn’t available. With the rise in card payments online, we could also experience an increase in cyber-attacks.

Additionally, some parts of the country don’t have great signal, meaning that individuals who would need to take cash payments, such as taxi drivers or mobile hairdressers, would miss out.

While it’s clear that we are moving towards a cashless society, many may find it easier if it’s a gradual process.

Photograph by Jarmoluk

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