Home Finance & Investments British people aren’t ready for cashless society, research claims

British people aren’t ready for cashless society, research claims

Over half (54%) of British people admit to avoiding cash to pay for goods and services but – as high streets continue to push ‘card payments only’ policies and the ‘contactless’ card payment limit will more than double later this year – 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, behavioural insight company SimpleUsability is urging the nation to be more mindful of those who may face financial and social exclusion.

The Bank of England noted in its quarterly bulletin that 42% of people had recently visited a store that would not accept cash. This backs up research commissioned by SimpleUsability, which appeared to support the rhetoric around a rapid move to a digital Britain.

A survey of a 1,000-strong representative sample of the UK population, in January 2021, found that although 66% of people are visiting their bank less often, 51% admitted to having 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.


“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,” explained Judith Doherty, account director at SimpleUsability.

“From those with a poor credit history to the unemployed and homeless, there are millions of people in the UK who don’t have a bank account – and we mustn’t forget about them as we start to recover from the events of the past year.”

Of those surveyed – and despite 34% of the population currently feeling ‘worse off’ and 45% ‘less secure’ about their financial future – 61% of those who sought financial advice turned to a money-saving tips website for help.

These findings were compounded by a further 30% using Google to solve their monetary queries, 38% speaking to family and friends, and just 25% liaising with a qualified financial adviser.

And with 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,” Judith continued. “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, those financial institutions which want to do away with brick-and-mortar sites should 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 the latest research paper from SimpleUsability.

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