Page last updated at 23:30 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Cash and cheques could be unfashionable

By Kevin Peachey
Personal finance reporter, BBC News

Signing a cheque
A date could soon be set for the end of the cheque in the UK

Reports predicting that cheques will soon go out of fashion have met relatively little resistance, according to payments experts.

But will the changing way we pay for things affect the way we dress?

Analysis by the Payments Council, an organisation that oversees how we pay, confirms in a report out this week that people in the UK are likely to use their mobile phones to make payments as chequebooks disappear.

Estimates by the payments association Apacs also suggest that the UK will move closer to a cashless society.

So, will fashion change if we need to carry a mobile phone and plastic cards more than notes and coins?

Bag lady

Andrew Ibi, a designer and fashion lecturer based in West London, says the change could lead to the increased use of bags by men.

Andrew Ibi
Andrew Ibi runs his own store and lectures at Kingston University

"Men think more about function and so dress based on practicality," says Mr Ibi, who runs the Convenience Store near Portobello Road.

"But if you have a really sharp pair of trousers, the last thing you want to do is shove your wallet or phone in your pocket, because it causes dramas in the way the trousers are going to hang."

He says that men need to get out of the habit of stuffing their pockets with items, whereas women traditionally are less worried about function and more about aesthetics. They are also more frequent users of bags.

While we will always be likely to carry coins, changes in technology are making electronic payments more popular. Non-cash payments are likely to overtake cash payments for the first time in 2015, according to Apacs.

The BBC News website asked Rosie Ray, a fashion design student at Nottingham Trent University, to come up with some drawings forecasting fashionable ways of carrying cards and mobiles.

"I really like the idea of pushing fashion further than just clothing, I like thinking of accessories," she says.

Fashion student's design
Cards are held in small packs in Rosie Ray's first design

The 23-year-old's first design, which looks a little like a holster, is a suggestion for young men who carry a lot of debit or credit cards.

It provides easy access to cards held in the carry packs, but is secure, with straps to go under a suit jacket.

Her second design is aimed at women and is inspired by vintage compacts and backstage passes. It is a fold-away carry pack that can hold different cards, which itself is held around the owner's neck with a chain.

'Roadmap'

These designs are a glimpse into the future, but the change in the way we pay for things is a consideration in the present.

In a report published this week, the Payments Council says it will spend 2009 planning a roadmap for the "managed decline" of the cheque.

Fashion student's design
Rosie Ray's second design was inspired by a backstage pass

This will include setting a date for the end of the cheque, previously estimated at about 2018.

The Council commissioned some independent research on the subject, which concluded that "habit, tradition and inertia" were the key factors behind the continued use of cheques.

Club fees, paying for school trips and sending cheques as gifts were among the reasons given for some people not wanting to do away with chequebooks.

The research studied countries such as the Netherlands, where cheque use is minimal, and found that small clubs and societies were collecting subscriptions by direct debit.

But the Council stresses that an education campaign will be needed to explain the alternatives to cheque use to people. Specific groups will also look at how people who depend on cheques, such as the housebound, will cope without them.

A key alternative to the chequebook is the mobile phone. The technology is within reach that will allow people to transfer money securely in the same way as they send a text message.

The report says that there is a "good appetite" for such a service among mobile phone users and small businesses.

More than half the people in the world have a mobile phone now, and developing countries with poor infrastructure tend to lead the way in exchanging money across mobile networks.

It goes to show that the way we pay for things has an effect on what everyone across the world needs to carry.

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