Our research finds British people aren’t ready for a cashless society

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March 8, 2021 3:49 pm

Our research finds British people aren’t ready for a cashless society



The ‘contactless’ card payment limit will more than double later this year – rising from £45 currently to £100 – allowing shoppers to purchase much more before entering their pin at the checkout.

However, while businesses and consumers alike have praised the decision, others have expressed concern at the speed in which the UK seems to be going cashless – particularly as Amazon Fresh opens its first till-less grocery store in London.

In order to determine what people truly thought about the shift to a more digital Britain, and the impact on attitudes to personal finance, we surveyed a 1,000-strong representative sample of the UK population, in January 2021.

The Bank of England noted in its quarterly bulletin that 42% of people had recently visited a store that would not accept cash, and over half (54%) of those we spoke to admitted to avoiding cash to pay for goods and services. But, as high streets continue to push ‘card payments only’ policies, three quarters of people (78%) remain against a move to a ‘cashless society’.

With two million people still relying on cash for everyday spending, and the UK’s ‘unbanked’ population standing at one million – we firmly believe that organisations and financial institutions must be more mindful of those who may face financial and social exclusion.

Our findings further highlighted that although 66% of people are visiting their bank less often, 51% had found alternative ways to facilitate the transactions they needed – and 82% had no doubts or concerns about applying for products without even visiting a branch.

Judith Doherty, account director at CDS/SimpleUsability explained: “The thing which struck me over the course of the past 12 months, is that even though a large number of people would be happy not to use cash again, there’s an increased level of awareness and understanding that such a ‘solution’ doesn’t work for everyone.

“The pandemic has taught us to be more empathetic towards others and understand that there may be people of all ages and backgrounds who may want, or be in a position, to conduct their financial affairs digitally. We mustn’t forget that as we focus on our country’s recovery.

“Although the UK has embraced digital solutions over the past 12 months, there is still a huge number of people who are unable to open a bank account – and therefore rely on cash,” Judith continued, “From those with a poor credit history to the unemployed and homeless, there are millions of people in the UK who face financial exclusion.”

But, with more than half (55%) of respondents having applied for a financial product without visiting their branch – using mobile and online banking, live chat, digital applications, or comparison websites instead – those without access to digital solutions are at risk of being overlooked.

“While much of the UK’s population could cope with digital-only transactions, there would still be millions of people who would be unable to carry out everyday activities,” explained Judith. “It’s not just the older generation or those who aren’t technologically-savvy either. Some of our nation’s most vulnerable people may not have access to a bank account.

“While the shift to a digital-first solution shows little sign of abating, it’s important too that financial institutions which want to do away with brick-and-mortar sites exercise caution, as people still value a human-to-human interaction – and cite it as being central to building trust.”

The full report and research findings can be found in our latest research paper, which you can download here.