top of page
  • Writer's pictureMagdalena Gołębiewska

UK goes cashless

One in 10 adults in the UK have gone "cashless", industry body UK Finance reports.

Around 5.4 million people made either one or no cash payments per month last year, prompting a 31% surge in the number of contactless payments made in the UK. But it’s not just younger spenders embracing the technology. Despite MP warnings that the death of cash culture would hit the elderly, 61% of over-65s made contactless payments in 2018. UK Finance estimates that cash will make up just 9% of payments by 2028.

One in 10 adults in the UK are now choosing to live a largely cashless life as contactless and mobile payments explode in popularity, official data reveals.

Among those aged 25 to 34, the figure rises to more than one in six (17%), said the banking body UK Finance. It defined an almost cashless existence as when people either make one cash payment per month or none at all.

Meanwhile, the number of contactless payments made in the UK surged by 31% in a year to reach 7.4bn in 2018. Around seven in 10 people in the UK now use contactless, though London, which once led the way on this form of payment, has been overtaken by the south-east, East Anglia and the Midlands.

The data also revealed that contactless payments were least popular in north-west England, where 58% of people used this type of payment in 2018, compared with 70%-plus in areas such as the south-east, the Midlands, London and Wales.

Asked about this, UK Finance said the north-west was sometimes slower than other areas when it came to adopting new technology. It said this might be connected to older populations in some parts of the region – Blackpool was last year named as having the oldest population of any UK city – plus the fact that the north-west included some more deprived areas, as well as large rural areas such as the Lake District.

Cash payments continued to decline in 2018, falling by 16% to 11bn, which meant notes and coins were used for 28% of all payments. This was down from 60% 10 years earlier, and UK Finance predicted that by 2028 the figure would have fallen to just 9%.

The banking body said cash remained the second most frequently used payment method in the UK – it was overtaken by debit cards in late 2017. However, UK Finance has forecast that credit cards and charge cards will overtake notes and coins in around 2027.

In March this year, a review concluded that more than 8 million UK adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society. Meanwhile the government confirmed last month that 1p and 2p coins and £50 notes were no longer under threat after a proposal to consider scrapping them prompted a backlash.

UK Finance’s chief executive, Stephen Jones, said: “Technology is not for everyone, and cash remains a payment method that is valued and preferred by many, so maintaining access to cash will be vital to ensure no customer is left behind.”

The new data shows there were 1.9 million consumers who mainly used cash in 2018, and that these were often people on lower incomes.

By contrast, the number of people who “almost never used cash at all” jumped by 2 million in a year – from 3.4 million to 5.4 million.

Meanwhile, almost one in six UK adults are now registered for mobile payment services such as Apple Pay and Google Pay – up from 2% in 2016.


bottom of page