The results of a recent survey by consumer group Which? suggest the UK is edging closer to becoming a cashless society. Over recent years, many people have taken to using debit or credit cards or online platforms to make purchases. This trend has further rocketed over the past ten months since the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK.
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The survey highlighted that over one-third of those polled had found themselves unable to pay by cash at least once since the outbreak began. This is a situation that has steadily become more widespread over recent months. Fears around spreading the infection through handling cash have resulted in more businesses taking card-only payments.
This could make life difficult for some people, as many are reliant on cash to make payments. Some people do not even have access to debit or credit cards, such as those with the most basic bank accounts and people with bad credit. Those without access to computers and the internet are also typically more reliant on cash.
In addition, substantial numbers of older people tend to favour cash rather than cards or online payments. Many seniors find it far easier to manage their money and budget when they use cash, whereas they may lose track of their spending on cards. Some have never used cards to make purchases, preferring to withdraw cash as and when required.
Government needs to act
Natalie Ceeney, the author of the ‘Access to Cash Review’, is calling on the government to step in and tackle the issue. According to the report, many businesses will no longer accept cash, with the most likely identified as being pubs, grocery stores, and restaurants.
Ceeney said that several factors were contributing toward increased refusal to accept cash payments among businesses. This included fear of infection from notes and coins and banks being less accessible to businesses during the pandemic. This, she said, has made it more difficult for them to bank cash takings.
In her report, she wrote, "The figures show that it's not simply the odd coffee shop going cashless, but this is creeping into the wider economy."
Cashless society could leave vulnerable people behind
Independent research carried out by Enryo, a finance consultancy, indicated that close to 75% of consumers believed that the UK was moving toward a cashless society too quickly. Many expressed concerns that a lot of older and vulnerable people would be left behind.