How realistic is a cashless society?

  • For years the industry has been referencing the demise of cash in the UK. The rise of digital payment methods have of course added a whole new level of convenience to our spending habits – but does this really mean we’re prepared to completely disregard the most traditional way to pay?

    In some countries, it’s certainly a prospect that’s not totally out of reach. Sweden, for example, is well on the way to becoming the world’s first cashless country; – there are only 80 billion Swedish crowns in circulation, down from 106 billion just six years ago. In fact, many banks are even removing ATMs from rural areas as they’re so rarely used!

    However, looking at other countries in Europe, cash usage tells a totally different story. In Germany, notes and coins are still the preferred way to pay, mainly due to their security. And while the country admitted that plastic payments may be more practical, critics have commented that banks are the real benefiters as they help cut costs. 

    Back in the UK, there’s no doubt that cash usage is falling. In fact, last year marked a disappointing record for physical tender; for the first time, cash was overtaken by virtual payment methods. Card payments alone have almost doubled in the last decade.

    The concept of cashless has not gone unnoticed by businesses in the country, with the UK Cards Association reporting that previously plastic-free locations such as pubs and cafés are now much more likely to take money with a machine.

    But, even considering all of this, would the consumer be happy without the option to pay with traditional money? They’re using cards more regularly than ever before, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re prepared to wave goodbye to notes and coins forever just yet.

    And contrary to common opinion, it’s not just the older generations that support this view. Despite being hailed as the most tech-savvy of all, millennials still have a place in their heart for cash; 32% recently cited it as their favourite way to pay. The reason for this? Apparently, it remains the easiest way to confirm a transaction!

    So while 2016 is sure to see its fair share of growth headlines for cards, it looks like Europe as a whole is quite far behind the Swedes in the cashless movement.