You may have seen the signs popping up in shops and cafés: ‘contactless only’ or ‘no cash payments here’. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many retailers have reportedly begun asking customers to use contactless payments instead of cash, due to worries over hygiene. And it seems that lots of us feel the same: our research report, An Exploration of Worth, reveals that 51% of UK adults surveyed are much less likely to use cash because of COVID-19.
But is it all down to the pandemic, or were our attitudes to cash shifting anyway? According to a 2019 report by Sweden’s central bank Riksbank, cash use has been in constant decline in the country for years, while the amount of cash in circulation has halved since 2007.
Is Britain moving towards a cashless society too?
During the first six months of the pandemic, the number of cash withdrawals plunged – and according to LINK, the UK’s main cash machine network, they were still just over a third lower this October than they were at the same time last year.
The findings of our research report reveal that the average amount of cash currently carried by UK adults is just over £36 – but many people we asked were found to carry much less. In fact, a quarter said they had less than £5 in their pockets – perhaps this is unsurprising since 43% of the people we asked agreed that visiting an ATM to withdraw cash is ‘annoying’.
Some of us are concerned about cleanliness too, with almost a third of those surveyed worrying about hygiene when it comes to carrying physical money.
Our research report shows that younger generations seem less likely to consider cash important – 43% of 18 to 34 year olds think that you shouldn’t need to carry it these days. Just 16% of over 55s feel the same, and many of this age group (41%) worry if they don’t have cash on them.
This could be a reflection of the fact that younger people have grown up in a world where you can pay for things with your mobile phone or the tap of a card, whereas older people could more likely be accustomed to handling physical money. More than half of people (56%) across all age groups surveyed agree, however, that being able to manage your finances digitally is worthwhile.