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Is the cashless society a good thing? Definitely not

24 May 2016

10:23 AM

24 May 2016

10:23 AM

On a quiet news day, not much happens if you’re a reporter. It’s tempting to sit back, surf the internet, check your social media profiles and mull over dinner prospects. Then there’s the lure of online shopping sites: ASOS, Amazon, you name it, they’re there at the click of a button.

Ordering online can be dangerous. It doesn’t really feel like spending money, particularly if you have a debit or credit card set up already. All it takes is a few seconds to spend hundreds of pounds. I know because I’ve done it.

Now comes the news that we are moving ever closer to becoming a cashless society. According to Payments UK, which represents the major banks, building societies and payment providers, 2015 was the first year that cash was used for less than half of all payments by consumers. The organisation believes that cash usage will be eclipsed by debit cards and contactless payments by 2021.

Consider this: in 2015 cash made up 45.1 per cent of payments, compared with 64 per cent in 2005, and is expected to fall to just a quarter by 2025. It will largely be replaced with payments by contactless cards, which have soared in popularity.


As the technological revolution moves on apace, so does the increased convenience of shopping without cash or cheques. There’s even a dog which takes contactless payments (Smudge, a five-year-old labrador from South London, is collecting donations for the pet charity, Blue Cross).

But convenience can equate to carelessness. Following yesterday’s study by Payments UK comes research from Gocompare. The price comparison website says that 15 per cent of survey respondents were concerned that new digital payment systems encouraged them to spend more than they should, and 7 per cent didn’t connect their spending in this way with ‘real money’.

Matt Sanders, Gocompare.com’s credit cards spokesperson, said: ‘While new payment systems such as ‘contactless’ make spending easier and quicker, many people admit to losing track of their spending and lots of small payments can soon add up to a sizeable bill.

‘Perhaps unsurprisingly, 18 to 24-year-olds, who’ve grown up in the internet age, are particularly switched on and less fazed by the new digital ways to spend money, finding them easier to use than cash or traditional bank cards.  However, as an age group they are twice as likely to not equate these payment methods with spending actual cash, and not recognising this link could lead to financial trouble.’

But it’s not just the young who have embraced digital spending. Barclaycard says that the biggest increase in contactless payments has been among Britain’s over-60s, with the number of users up 116 per cent over the past year – more than any other age group.

I wonder if older people are more likely to spend wisely, no matter the method? Time will tell.


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