So I went into a bar on Friday night, ordered a beer and handed over a £5 note only to be told they didn't accept cash. Fortunately I had my debit card on me so could pay for the beer. Had I not I would have had to get a friend to pay or leave, I guess!
It got me thinking, is this the future? And if so, what and who would it affect.
Our business has been virtually all cash for generations, with the agent going round to the customer's house at an agreed time each week or month to collect a cash payment. This is definitely changing and more and more customers are now paying by standing order, bank transfer or debit card. In an increasingly busy world this makes a lot of sense as you don't have to wait in for your agent and you don't have to withdraw cash from your bank in order to give it to them. Many would argue that this is safer for both customer and agent. Conversely many would argue that they feel safer with cash and could point to a fraud on their bank account or something that has gone wrong with a card purchase.
We still have customers that don't have a bank account, if everywhere went cashless they would find life difficult. Inevitably they would have to get a bank account, but nowadays this requires providing identification and proof of address. What if you can't get these?
We still have a lot of customers who feel safer having their cash in their hand and allocating it for all their bills - some literally have envelopes in a draw, one with the gas money, one for food etc etc
With cash, if you go to buy something, you know you can. The money is literally in your hand. Using a debit card, you do need to be aware a payment may have come out of your account very recently which may affect your ability to buy whatever you're after. And also you have to remember your pin number! Use your online banking to stay up to date you may say. But many people, especially I suspect many elderly people, don't have access to the internet and hence online banking, so this isn't an option.
When you buy something with your card, it is traceable back to you so there is less privacy. And what if there is a technology problem? Remember last year when the TSB bank systems failed and people couldn't pay their bills or do any bank transactions. It was chaos!
But these glitches are very rare and trace-ability is a major weapon against money laundering. Cashless payments mean reduced crime as there is a paper trail.
And for companies, cashless payments can reduce their costs and hence keep prices down.
In my opinion it is inevitable that cashless payments will continue to grow each year but for the time being at least cash is here to stay!