The conversation centered around the cash versus cashless debate, sparked by the new £20 banknote - introduced today. The episode is available to stream on the BBC website until March 28th, 2020:
A transcript of BBC radio interview by Ian Collins and Anna Cookson for Wake Up Call (7:05am - 7:20am, Feb 21st, 2020) with Andrea Nitsche of Cash Matters and Chris Russel of the cashless Black Deer Musical festival in Tunbridge Wells can be found here:
Ian Collins: Good morning, five-past seven, Friday 21st of February. Now yesterday the new 20 pound note was launched, sitting alongside the Winston Churchill fiver and the Jane Austen Tenner, a new William Turner twenty, is now the turner twenty, but you might be asking, what is the point? Within the next decade, fewer than 1 in 10 transaction will be in cash.
"Cashless and cash can work very well together. we are moving in a direction that wants all cashless, I think that will be problematic, the more I've study it the more concern I get that the simple advantages of cash are being forgotten."
Anna Cookson: Seven minutes past seven, good morning. So, go on, how much cash do you carry on you right now? We've heard everything from £200 to none at all, this morning. As regards going cashless, Madeleine says, "I'm aware of how cash is less used, even the local Big Issue seller has a card reader, but how does this move away from cards help my piggy bank?" It is quite tangible, isn't it, when you've got that piggy bank when you can say "right, every bit of loose change, I put it away and -
IC: (laughs) piggy bank?
AC: Yeah! My husband, I've just remembered, has a glass jar full of 1ps and 2ps. Now I'm a skinflint so I actually spend those, but he says, "Oh, you can't really spend those", so he puts them in a big container. so he's going to have to go the bank and cash it in.
IC: No, you can take it to the supermarket, they have those exchange machines now. Have you not seen them? Oh, hours of fun! Lobbying your small change into these things, and it notches it up, (imitates machine noises) so it counts it and you can see it on a big screen. At the end of it you can opt to make a donation to a charity, a percentage of.
AC: Nice! Or all of it!
IC: Yes, or you can take all of it for yourself! I think my record was 120 quid, over the course of time, from just having loose change.
AC: We're having a bit of a fair ground game with it at the moment, who can guess the contents of the jar. So we need to do that together.
IC: Well, that's a great way to do it, because you haven't go to count it. Just take it there and [the machines] count it. I think it's called Coin Star or something like that.
AC: OK, job done. I might do it when he's not looking.
IC: You can't get it back once you've put it in the machine. You can't say "oh, I want to change it up now". Then you just take the receipt to the till, and they give you your money. I think it's called CoinStar. It's nice, you have it in a little tray, you piut it in the tray, and the little tray, and and it dip the money into the system. It's interesting watching, you think, "oh this is about £18" then you look at the screen and it gets to £38, then £48, then £58 and you think, "Man alive, this is just loose change from the last couple of years that I've collated!"
AC: Well we better do this while it still exists!
"It's just easier, because you know how much you've got, you don't have to check your phone and stuff like that."
IC: That's the question: Do you still carry cash. If so, how much is in your purse or wallet right now. We asked these people from Tunbridge Wells.
- "Probably about £15, not a lot"
- "£100-£200 quid in cash"
- "I like to have some cash in my purse, just in case"
- "it's just easier, because you know how much you've got, you don't have to check your phone and stuff like that.
- "I carry less cash than i probably did six months ago"
- "There are still places that need cash"
IC: Still places where you need cash. That is indeed true, at the moment we are discussing as the new 20 pound note came into circulation this week. It features the face of artist William Turner, of course. The Moorgate Santander - because Turner spent much of his life in Moorgate, and his paintings are testament to that - so the Moorgate Santander, was one of the first place to get the new 20 pound note (there's a little nod to his residency), there are currently 2 billion 20 pounds notes in circulation. Laid in a line, they would wrap around the world seven times. That's a great stat, isn't it?
AC: Yeah, and we think we're going cashless? With all that money, really?
IC: There's a lot of it out there. But as we move to an increasingly cash-less society, do we need physical cash anymore? In a moment we'll speak to Chris Russel Fareshoes, from Black Deer Musical Festival, which will be held in Eridge Park, in June. They're going cashless, by the way, so we'll find out more about that in a moment. First, we have Andrea Nitsche, chair of the pro cash movement, Cash Matters. Andrea, good morning!
Andrea Nitsche: Good morning!
IC: I didn't even know, the pro-cash movement existed. Is that bad that I was unaware of your mighty presence. Is that bad?
AN: Actually, we only started a few years ago, and I'd much appreciate if you were aware of our presence, well you are now.
IC: Indeed we are.
AN: We started this because there's a huge, huge marketing budget for non cash payments, especially by the big American conglomerates, but there's no promotional platform for cash. That's why we started that.
IC: So you sense that, regardless of technology and all that is happening, there is still an absolute need for cash, and always will be. Is that your contention?
AN: Well, "always will be"? Who can say nowadays? Looking at cash, there are huge regional differences. I mean yes, in some parts of Europe, the Baltic states, Scandinavian states and Britain, cash use has dropped, but if you look at the Latin Americas, Africa and India and Germany or Austria, cash usage is still really high. That's one thing -
IC: That surprises me, that India and Germany both have high cash usage, given that both are big economies and technologically quite advanced, you might think they might be ahead of the game in that respect.
AN: I don't know if they're ahead of the game. I think there's maybe a bigger awareness of the advantages of cash. Because there are a lot of advantages to cash that you cannot replicate in any digital form of mobile form of payment or cards
IC: Give me an example of that, because I'm pretty much a "cashless guy" -
AN: [Laughs], yeah many people are these days.
IC: - yeah, I don't like stuff in my pockets. The idea of carrying a chunky wallet in your pocket - i'm a very well-groomed young man, Andrea, I need to make sure everything looks nice and dandy when i'm out on the town. I don't want a massive wallet sticking out of my back pocket.
AN: I wonder how much cash you have to carry to have a chunky wallet sticking out of your pocket, but that's another point...
IC: Well, there is that. Now it's just a phone - i've just got a phone.
AN: Yeah, that's also kind of sticking out of your pocket, isn't it...
IC: (laughs) Let's not get into fashion rather than cash.
AN: There's the usual argument to cash, you have the Access to Cash Review in the UK that highlighted the issue of social inclusion. There are 1.7 billion adults who have no access to the regular financial system, so what do these people do without cash? Then there's the argument about resilience, if you have a crisis nothing works but cash. There are all these arguments, but I think cash is also much more than that, for me, cash is a fundamental building block for personal freedom and independence. Because, if you think about it, it is the only form of payment that is independent from its issuer. You have it in your pocket, and you're free. That doesn't happen with any other payment.
"...cash is a fundamental building block for personal freedom and independence. Because, if you think about it, it is the only form of payment that is independent from its issuer. You have it in your pocket, and you're free. That doesn't happen with any other payment."
IC: And you can feed yourself, you can house yourself, with the freedom of cash, but if you do that digitally, are you not achieving the same result?
AN: Well you can, but you can be stopped by the flick of one switch. If for one reason or another, (and I think many people have had it with accounts for music or Kindle accounts), all of a sudden your account is blocked.
IC: Yeah, someone suggested that part of our legal system in the years to come will be turning off our digital ability.... so you'll go to the magistrate court, you'll get fined and they'll say "and we're also curtailing your spending power by 80% for the next three months".
AN: Yeah, it's not only that, the protection of privacy and data - which is part of the freedom and independence part for me - is another one. If you look at what's happening in China right now, they have a social scoring system and that is being done through payments...
IC: Yeah, you're certainly followed and your footprints are being left all over the place whenever you pay for anything digitally. Let's talk to Chris. Chris Russel from the Black Deer Musical festival....
IC: So, I wouldn't be able to buy anything with cash at the festival?
CRF: Not, nothing whatsoever, no. We have the benefit of the website is that when you've loaded your money it automatically tops up because you've done it offsite.
IC: Let me just bring Andrea in on this, I mean, what Chris says sounds sensible, it's a good clean way to go to a gig, you've got everything preloaded on your band you can buy drinks, what's wrong with that?
AN: Nothing, and we are not against other forms of payment. We just think that cash should be there as well. And if you have a closed system, like the event that Chris just mentioned for certain purposes, there's nothing wrong with that. The only thing is that there may be people in Britain might like to attend this festival but have no bank account, so I wonder how they do that.
CRF: That's a great question, we thought about that as well. Some people, are new at using the wristbands, more and more festivals are using them. We wanted to make sure that those people who weren't sure how to use it, have the opportunity to use ATMs. So, with the wristbands you can top-up as you go. We have cash machines there, and people can go there with their cards, get out cash and top-up their wristbands at all of the top-up stations. I think another thing that's important to remember, is that when you preload your wristband with us, they shouldn't come off and you shouldn't loose them but (things happen) if this happens, we have a process in place so you can inform us and we can -
IC: So it could be safer in that respect... Let me ask you both, final point, how much cash do you guys carry on you yourselves?
AN: About a €110.
IC: That's quite a lot isn't it?
AN: Mmh, it's the average amount of money Germans carry in their wallet, about €105.
IC: Really? I didn't know that. A nice stat to finish on! Andrea, Thank you. Andrea Nitsche, from Cash Matters!