Cash is no longer king

Less than half of all payments last year involved coins or notes.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 21 May 2015

If you believe the techies it won’t be long before we’re all paying for everything with a chip inserted under our skin – or at least with the contactless NFC technology embedded into most high-end smartphones. The death of cash has been predicted for a while now but, while coins and notes are certainly in decline, we’re clearly still attached to them - at least for now.

Today the Payments Council, an industry body, published new figures showing cash now accounts for less than half of all payments for the first time ever. Though a slim 52% majority of consumer payments are with cash, including B2B and institutional payments this figure falls to just 48%.

The industry doesn’t seem to think banknotes will die out anytime soon though.  Last year the number of free-to-use ATMs grew 5.2% to an all-time peak of 50,506, and cash remains by far the largest individual payment method by volume, ahead of debit cards on 24%.

This resilience is perhaps explained by figures showing where cash is mainly spent. It’s used disproportionately often to pay for purchases from discount and convenience stores, and charity shops, all of which have exploded in recent years. Cash also remains by far the most dominant payment method in pubs and clubs, although contactless payment should put pay to that eventually.

The volume of cash payments is expected to fall by 30% over the next 10 years. That represents a substantial decline, but would still leave cash as the payment method of choice for more than a third of all transactions. Don’t throw away your coin purse just yet.

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