UK: Cash Usage Sees Growth For The First Time In A Decade

September 20, 2023

For the first time since 2012, cash payments increased by 8% in 2022 – accounting for 6.2 billion payments. The reason for this surge – however small, and still 30% below pre-pandemic levels – can be attributed to different factors brought about by the end of COVID 19.

2022 was the first year the economy was open throughout, which opened more opportunities for cash usage, as well as the confidence customers gained after vaccinations and boosters, making the virus less lethal and therefore less scary. As well as evidence proving the virus was spread mostly by air as opposed to the initial belief that the virus could be transmitted by surfaces such as cash.

In addition, the war between Russia and Ukraine brought with it inflation, which significantly affected the cost-of-living, and according to consumer research conducted for UK Finance 2022, consumers use more cash in times of financial hardship to be able to manage a tighter budget and keep all spending to a minimum. This behavior was also seen in 2008.

Some campaigners argue that although cash has been on a steady decline for years, it is still an important tool for those people who are trying to keep a tight budget or are not digitally savvy. Such is the case with the elderly or perhaps people who don’t have abundant digital access such as those living in rural areas.

Branch numbers are also falling, with more than 600 banks due to close by the end of 2023, leaving about 4,000 across the UK, according to data from ATM provider Link. In August, the government released its proposals to ensure that provisions to access cash are protected, with the Financial Conduct Authority overseeing banks’ role.

According to the deputy Editor of Which? Money, Sam Richardson, it is easy and convenient by many UK citizens to pay digitally. However, there’s a minority that can’t yet make the switch, as evidenced by the increase in cash usage last year.

In the payments scene, overall, cash usage declined by 1%, as more consumers switched to credit or debit cards, which for the first time accounted for 50% of all payments, another payment option that increased in popularity was contactless payments, which rose from 21% in 2021 to 37% in 2022. This has been attributed to the increased spending limit in October 2021, which prompted consumers to get more familiar with tapping to pay and digital wallets.

Want to learn more? Check out Payments Cards and Mobile’s full write-up here.

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