Millions Would Struggle in a Cashless Society

calendar iconMay 25, 2022


Ten million Brits would find it hard to manage their finances and a further 15 million would be seriously inconvenienced were cash to no longer be usable, according to a Royal Society of Arts (RSA) study.

The RSA says the current ‘dash to digital’ holds huge risks, especially as UK finances are increasingly stretched. Its report—The Cash Census—notes that while many people enjoy cashless options such as smartphone payments, others are feeling forced into a world for which they are not equipped.

For millions of people, their relationship with cash is critical to the way they manage their weekly budget. Despite online banking and shopping becoming more common, our research shows the percentage of the population wholly reliant on cash is unchanged.
"Mark Hall, Author, The Cash Census

An estimated 15 million people rely on cash to budget, which is already becoming more challenging amid cost of living rises. The report consequently recommends legislation to ensure everyone has access to cash near to their home. It also says payment in cash should always be accepted for essential services such as council tax bills and school dinners.

Natalie Ceeney, the author of the UK’s last major cash study—Access to Cash Review—says that digital payments ‘just don’t work’ for some people, including the 1.5 million who don’t have a bank account and many more who lack broadband. She warns these people are becoming increasingly marginalised and isolated as cash becomes less accessible.

The question we asked three years ago was whether the UK is ready to go cashless. The answer is still no.
"Natalie Ceeney, Author, Access to Cash Review (2019)

Martin McTague, from the Federation of Small Businesses, also highlights the continued importance of cash, saying cash is still the most popular payment method among customers at one in four small High Street businesses.

There has been some progress with supporting cash in the UK, including a recent deal ensuring customers of major banks and building societies are able to access their cash and conduct basic banking at Post Office counters: a large network of services across the country. An assessment of geographical cash access coverage also found 95.7 percent of the population live within two kilometres of a cash withdrawal facility, but noted there is room for improvement.

Last Updated: May 24, 2022