Do You Take Cash? Why Trying To Pay With Money Could Become Tricky

"Give it 20 years and the majority of businesses will take card only."

When was the last time you took cash out of a machine. This week? This month, even? What was once a frequent habit has, for many people, become more of an exception than the rule: the thing you only do when the stall holder doesn’t take cards.

Humans first began using coins nearly 3,000 years ago, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that Barclays issued its first credit card in the UK, and the world’s first cash machine was installed. Now, one in 10 of us rarely uses cash at all – popping to the shops without a single coin or cash note, tapping a contactless card to buy something in an instant.

Our move away from cash is partly driven by the growth of online shopping – fast, convenient, and no having to pay for expensive parking at shopping centres – but also by the spread of services that no longer accept our coins and notes.

Stuart Thompson, 33, owns the restaurant and bar Barge East in Hackney, London, which has been exclusively card-only since it opened in August 2018. He explains why he decided not to accept cash at his business: “Card is a lot safer and more secure,” he says. “It reduces administration and also it’s our customer preference – we find there are very few who want to pay with cash anymore. If someone breaks onto our barge, they won’t find any cash to steal.”

Thompson admits he had to lift his “no cash rule” for a tourist who only had physical money – and he does keep a small cash float on board just in case – but 99.9% of transactions for his business are card. Cash will soon be a thing of the past, he thinks.

Jonny Krantz, who runs two cafés called Bluebelles of Portobello in London, says card payments make life easier for businesses and consumers but as a business-owner, the primary reason he switched to card-only was crime.

Cash can act like an incentive for someone to break in, he argues – with break-ins a problem at both his cafes. “We’ve been broken into six or seven times and probably equal that amount in attempted burglaries,” he tells HuffPost UK.

“In our most recent case, the guy who broke in not only took the cash we had there, but smashed the place up. They might take £1,000 out of your takings, and then it’s not worth claiming on the insurance as they won’t cover it.” As a result, Krantz’s businesses went cash free in March.

“Give it 20 years and I think the majority of businesses will take card only.”

- Stuart Thompson

There are concerns that as the banks on our high street close, our contact with money will become increasingly virtual and more shops, entertainment and public transport will become accessible only to those who use cards.

The cashless society could leave some behind: the elderly, the less mobile, the homeless, and the poor who don’t have access to a bank account. One in 25 people still relies on cash as their main payment method, says UK Finance.

“I think it’s a shame [some people] haven’t taken the next step to carry card,” says Krantz. “They’re walking around with their entire fortune in their pocket. If they get mugged – they have nothing.”

How far away are we from a fully cashless society? Thompson believes it will get less and less prolific. “The younger generations won’t be used to paying things with cash, they’ll be use to mobile and card,” he says.

“Give it 20 years and I think the majority of businesses will take card only.”