Britain will be almost cashless by 2024 as the pandemic fuels a permanent shift in consumer habits, a payments firm has predicted.
Worldpay said that it expected only 7 per cent of in-store purchases in the UK to be made using cash in three years’ time. Cash payments by number fell to 13.4 per cent of sales last year from 27.4 per cent in 2019.
Growing use of debit and credit cards with contactless features and payment using mobile phones has swept away use of notes and coins, a trend accerated by Covid restrictions in shops.
Worldpay warned that the shift away from cash could exclude a large number of people who are not prepared to take advantage of alternative payment methods.
Pete Wickes, a general manager at Worldpay, said: “The decline in the use of cash in the UK has accelerated, and while this opens up new opportunities for businesses to optimise and drive efficiencies, we need to be mindful that important parts of the economy continue to rely on cash, such as charity donations and restaurant tip jars, while there are many in society who remain under-banked.”
Worldpay said financial technology companies and regulators need to work to ensure that they did not exclude people.
The government has pledged to legislate to protect cash for those who need it most. A consultation on how to achieve this is due to begin in the summer. Gareth Shaw, head of money at the consumer group Which?, said: “The cash network has been severely damaged in recent years, particularly since the coronavirus outbreak, because there has been no effective oversight to ensure the millions of people who still depend on it can withdraw it. The government must move quickly to safeguard access to cash through legislation, to ensure that the system remains viable for as long as it is needed.”
A study of payment trends across 41 countries by Worldpay found that countries including Denmark, Norway, Hong Kong and Australia are also expected to be almost cashless by 2024.