A fully cashless future is unrealistic, reveals Travelex study (Dec, 2018)

Jan. 30, 2019 Share Source
Do people really want to live in a cashless society? Findings from a recent Travelex study on the attitudes towards cash and cashless technology reveal that the 'cashless goal' is both unrealistic and unwanted.

'It’s unlikely that any attempts to abandon cash completely will succeed' predicts Michael Batley, Head of Strategy at Travelex - the global foreign exchange and money transfer specialist company behind the study.

There are reasons to choose cash, and reasons to choose electronic payments. But there is no reason to give up cash completely. As it turns out, what people want is the freedom to choose between the two. A happy equilibrium.

Travelex's research into the markets across the UK, Australia, Brazil, and South Africa, uncovered an "immovable 24%" of people who do not wish to give up cash. Further insight from the study published on December 4th, 2018 include:

  • Surprisingly, where cash is less common, there is far less desire to go 100% cashless
  • Getting rid of cash is most popular with those aged 36-45, rather than younger millennials
“While the proliferation of cashless payment technologies has generally led to a reduction in cash usage across developed economies, banknotes have unique properties that consumers value, such as security against fraud,”
" Michael Batley Head of Strategy Travelex

Excerpt from Travelex study

All countries see cash as part of their day-to-day lives. They carry cash at all times, replenish their wallets and purses at ATMs, and even where cashless payment technology is widely available, there is no great desire to go that last extra mile and never use cash again. There exists, on average across all countries, an “immovable 24%” of the population who, when presented with a range of factors that might influence them to use less cash, were perfectly happy with their cash usage as it stands today.

The research suggests that there is an equilibrium, a happy medium, where people use cash far less than they used to, but don’t want to get rid of it altogether. Physical cash has a unique set of properties that people value. Consumers therefore opt for a balance based on their own personal view of using cash, card or ‘other’ to pay in any given environment.

"...Even Sweden’s bid to go cashless, touted as a successful model, has seen pushback. Ultimately, only consumer demand will drive the change towards a truly cashless society and our research indicates this is further away than many realise.”
" Michael Batley Head of Strategy Travelex

Travel money is a special, but illustrative case. Those in countries with more payment options still use some cash when travelling—indeed typically much more so than for domestic payments—while those in countries that tend to use cash more at home seize this opportunity to use new technologies.

What people want is choice—they want the convenience of cashless payment technologies, but they also want the control and reliability that cash affords. New technology has undoubtedly shifted the payments landscape, but cash will remain a part of the landscape for the foreseeable future.

Download Travelex study here

Last Updated: June 4, 2019