Cashless Society: Meet The People Who Have Ditched Coins For Apps And Plastic

Do you still even need to carry money?

There’s the jam jar of copper on the kitchen counter; dish of assorted coins decanted from jacket and jean pockets as you come through the door; crumpled fiver hiding in the bottom of your bag like a present to your future self.

Cash has spread itself around our lives – from the notes in your purse to the pound down the back of the sofa – that imagining life without it would have been unthinkable. Until recently.

Last year, card payments overtook cash payments for the first time – a strong sign we are increasingly moving towards a cashless society. And if we keep switching away from coins and notes at the current rate, there are warnings that cash could disappear by 2026. At the same time, people’s access to free cash is also becoming more limited, with more and more ATMs charging fees – the UK Treasury has also recently had to confirm the future of copper change.

So what’s it like to live without cash? Those who have all but ditched it say it’s convenient and easy – and they have no use for cash in their day to day life. Here, three people explain what made them leave their loose change behind.

‘I stopped using cash when I started using Amazon, Uber And Deliveroo’

Buzz Carter

Buzz Carter still carries a wallet – but there’s no cash inside it. “I have my ID, my credit card, and my loyalty cards but no money,” the 22-year-old marketing executive tells HuffPost UK. “The last time I used money was last Tuesday when I played football as they’ll only take cash.”

Carter stopped using cash about three years ago, when he got a contactless card. And now he finds that so convenient that even putting in his chip and pin to make a payment feels like a drag: “I do try to keep my spending under 30 quid so I don’t have to,” he says.

Our move as a society towards convenience has been quite remarkable, which makes using cash feel slow Carter, who lives in Southend-On-Sea, argues. He attributes this shift to his generation’s demand for instant gratification. In addition, cards take up less space in your wallet than cash does – and they are also easier for cashiers and vendors to deal with. “Everything I buy is contactless or it’s on Amazon,” he says.

“I can understand there are some issues, for example with homeless people who rely on change – but otherwise I can’t see any major issues [with the move away from cash],” he says. “It’s been three years since I stopped using cash properly - which was around the time I got contactless card but also when I became aware of things like Deliveroo and Uber.”

‘The last time I used cash was to buy a Christmas tree on 1 December – and I’m in my 50s’.

Dan Smith

But while Carter might point out lots of our society’s movement towards cashless spending is generational, Dan Smith, who runs a marketing company and is married with a young daughter, suggests the change is more widespread.

The 50-year-old attributes his love of plastic to convenience. So rarely does he have cash, in fact, that he can remember the last time he went to a cash machine to withdraw money. (It was the 1st December – because he needed it to buy a Christmas tree.) Smith, who lives in London, has also embraced Apple Pay, suggesting that it’s not just millennials embracing new ways of spending what we earn.

In fact, the sole cash he carries is a single pound for the supermarket trolley – a strategy that generally works perfectly smoothly. The only hitch came when he visited a beer festival in London’s Brick Lane where a food stall didn’t take cards.

Using a card instead of plastic has the dual benefit of convenience and putting a curb on his spending, Smith argues. “If I went out and still had £30 in my pocket at the end of the night, I’d be more likely to get a taxi.” While others might get a bit tap-happy with their contactless card and prefer to withdraw the amount they have available to spend, for Smith it’s the opposite: once cash has been withdrawn, it can feel like it’s there to be spent.

But with an increasing number of cash machines now charging people for withdrawing their money according to a recent report, Smith also recognises the potential issues for people who rely on cash such as the elderly, those who live rurally, or those on a tight budget who simply can’t afford charges to withdraw money.

‘I never use cash – because my banking app keeps me in control of all of my spending and helps me to save’

Catherine Morgan

Catherine Morgan, 37, is a financial advisor who runs the podcast ‘In Her Financial Shoes’, which aims to enlighten women about money. She finds cards a much easier way than cash to track and monitor spending. She uses mobile-only bank Starling, which has an app to help you divvy up payday cash into virtual ‘pots’ of savings – you can add pictures to illustrate your goals, helping you focus on achieving them.

Primarily, she doesn’t use cash because she doesn’t need it on a day to day basis – although there are always exceptions. “On a Saturday morning I have to pay a pound for my kids’ football and I never have cash on me, and it’s a bit of a running joke,” she says. “So my husband now, who does carry cash, pays it 10 weeks in advance.”

But using cards instead of cash also helps Morgan track her spending in an efficient way: when she pays for something, her bank pops up to remind her what she’s spent, prompting her to keep on top of it. It also helps with budgeting – just so long as you keep track and are honest with your own spending habits.

“I’m a massive fan of the old fashioned concept of allocating every pound to a particular job or purpose,” she says. “I have money that comes into my account and I have pots that I set everything aside for. So I have one for gifts, one for my car in case my tyres burst and I have to stick it on my credit card, I have what I call my ‘Oh my God’ fund in case I can’t work, I have my holiday fund and even a dentist fund,” she explains.

“I don’t think it matters how much money you have or how little money you have, everybody can use these methods to help them to manage their money better.”