The UK Risks “Sleepwalking” into Becoming a Cashless Society

20th December 2018
Robbie MacDiarmid
Robbie MacDiarmid

Report finds that cash is still an economic necessity for around 25 million people.

The ‘Access to Cash’ Review, launched in July 2018, has published some interim findings regarding the question ‘Is Britain ready to go cashless?’ – and has found the answer to be a firm ‘no’.

Even though the number and value of cash transactions are falling, cash is still vital for certain subsets of the population. In the UK, 2% of the population (1.3 million) still do not have bank accounts and so rely on cash for all of their economic involvement.

The graph below highlights falling cash spend in the UK, yet also that cash spending remains more than double that of contactless – a technology that many would assume has replaced the traditional payment method.


The report also found that almost half the population (47%) would find living without cash problematic, and that 17% would go as far as saying it was near impossible. The potential consequences of an unplanned rush to a cashless society are worrying, with risks including:

  • Loss of independence for many, particularly the old and disabled
  • Exploitation and abuse for the vulnerable, as digital can lead to a loss of control
  • The loss of viability of rural communities as shop costs rise and the local cash economy collapses

The full ‘Access to Cash’ report, due to be published in early 2019, will ‘explore the end-to-end cash cycle’ and provide recommendations for policy makers.

Graph data:

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Source
Cash 257 213.1 198 183.3 163.4 Euromonitor
Contactless 2.379649 7.746743 25.21412 53.14967 75.96670477* UK Finance


UK Finance:

Access to Cash Report:

Download Payments Intelligence Magazine (December 2018)