The start of lock-down in March saw the use of cash diminish hugely in a matter of days with a 60% fall in the number of withdrawals from cash machines, although people were taking out bigger sums.
This was not only spurred on by the closure of shops but an increase in online sales, a shift to contactless and thus reduced risk of transmission payments due to concerns that cash may transport corona-virus. Many of the outlets now refusing to accept cash are likely to look to maintain this easier form of financial transaction. The banks have made this easier too by increasing the contactless payment limit.
A cashless society has its benefits but has until now been resisted by some despite it being quicker and cheaper – cash costs us all indirectly with the banks passing on their costs to us. Government will likely favour this as ‘cash-in-hand’ payments will have a ‘paper trail’ – all be it all digital nowadays!
Of course there are issues raised relating to members of society who could be disenfranchised, however needs must and a crisis often drives people to change their habits of a lifetime in a short period of time whereas the predictions may well have been that it would take many years. Prior to this pandemic it was suggested we abandon written bank cheques, the idea was dropped but I suggest now few would want a cheque. Our mobile phones and computers now allow us to use our Credit, Debit and Cash cards without having to remember our pin but use a fingerprint etc!
Those not wanting to risk the supermarket have quickly adopted on-line supermarket shopping, so much so that in the early days it was near impossible for even loyal customers to book a slot and new customers were frozen out.
There are arguments against a cashless society including the lack of privacy if every transaction produces yet more data. But also fears that those suffering domestic abuse will no longer be able to ‘squirrel away’ a little cash here and there to save enough to make a getaway. There are always unexpected and unforeseen consequences to any change so we had best look for potential problems and mitigate these before the inevitable happens one way or another!
…and how will we pay the window cleaner or tip the hairdresser?
So, like the incredible turnaround from our commute to the office to the office is the kitchen table which works for many because of off-the-shelf communication products like Zoom will we soon be happy to do what we were resistant to not a few months ago – that is leave the house with no cash, even as a backup and use our cards, mobile phone, watch or even an embedded chip to pay our way? Many outlets have a charge for using credit cards passed onto the consumer directly as well as the cost to the business, what if it were to switch over and cash cost more? Would this be the nudge needed to go cashless? We are already some way along this journey and few believe cash is the future so what will it be? Any ideas?