Cashless to Beat Cash Methods in The UK By 2016

October 16, 2015         By: Steven Anderson

To anyone who thought cash would forever be king of the shopping landscape, there’s a disturbing development afoot, at least in the U.K.

The word is that, by the end of 2016, the total number of non-cash payments on the consumer side will beat the number of cash payments made by same. That’s the first time that will ever be seen in the region, and will actually represent the continuation of a major development in the process.

As big a blow as this is to the idea that cash was king, and cash would be king forever, that throne has been built on sand for some time. Non-cash payments actually overtook cash payments back in July 2014, but that was when business and consumer payments were combined.

This new development is just consumer payments alone, and means that the idea of non-cash payments is spreading. Spreading sufficiently, in fact, to make a rapidly-narrowing picture; by 2024, cash will be just one payment in three for consumers, suggesting that a cashless society—a weighted term if ever there was one—may be closer to hand than some expected.

The report predicts that debit cards will be the biggest driver, going from 26 percent of consumer payments in 2014 to an expected 42 percent by 2024. The use of checks, meanwhile, is set to fall even further, accounting for less than one percent—0.8 percent—of all non-cash transactions by 2024.

Consumers will pay for purchases, on average, with checks just twice a year according to projections. However, debit cards won’t be alone, as credit cards will also chip in, and so too will Internet-based payments and, of course, mobile payments.

The idea that cash will ever be gone from society is likely to take quite some time to come to pass, barring of course the dramatic intervention of government officials. While mobile payments are certainly catching on, and credit and debit cards are likewise a major part of everyday operations, there will still be those who prefer to do business on a cash basis.

Cash has value for its holders; some use it to better stick to a budget, or to better resist the temptation to shop on impulse as it’s easier to make a psychological connection to money that’s held in the hand and in the wallet. Money that’s little more than digital bits, meanwhile, is more readily spent, which makes it tougher to stick to a budget.

However, cash is more readily stolen as well, and the security of mobile payments systems are hard to turn down, not to mention the security found in credit and debit cards in many cases.

So while cash may not be king much longer, at least in the U.K., the idea that it will be gone forever is a bit longer of a shot. Still, cash is likely to be sharing the stage in short order, and on many fronts, it’s already been taken out of the spotlight and relegated to the ensemble of payment options.