Page last updated at 13:53 GMT, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 14:53 UK

Cash is being 'replaced by cards'

Can you live for a day without cash?

Cash payments will account for less than half of all transactions in five years' time, according to research.

The Payments Council, which oversees the strategy on payments systems, said that 80% of cash transactions made at present were for less than £10.

It claimed that "cash is king no more" as card payments accelerate and notes, coin and cheque usage declines.

But a recent poll for the BBC reflected opposition among pensioners to the phasing out of cheques.

The survey by ICM for the BBC suggested that three-quarters of pensioners were against the phasing out of cheques, which has been planned for October 2018.


The Payments Council, which set the deadline should alternative payment systems be developed, has published a report giving its vision of the future of how UK consumers spend.

Although cash will not disappear in our lifetime, the continuing payments revolution will make it an ever smaller part of our spending
Mike Bowman, Payments Council

It suggested that by 2018, one in 50 people would be paid their wages in cash, compared with one in eight in 1999.

It predicted that cash would account for 45% of transactions by 2018, compared with 73% in 1999, whereas debit card spending would increase from £65bn to £490bn over the same period.

"Although cash will not disappear in our lifetime, the continuing payments revolution will make it an ever smaller part of our spending," said Mike Bowman of the Payments Council.

"The noughties have been the decade of the debit card. Especially since chip and pin, which has speeded up transactions, it has become socially acceptable to buy small items by card now too, for example in a sandwich shop or a pub."

The Council also said that cheques accounted for 0.8% of spending in shops.

However, representatives from the Council faced some persistent questioning from the House of Commons Treasury Committee in March about the proposed winding down of the cheque system by 2018.

Committee chairman John McFall questioned whether the "terminal decline" of cheques was in fact a "fudged, managed decline".

Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK - previously Age Concern, said: "Despite growing evidence that the use of debit and credit cards is replacing more traditional payment methods, many older people still rely on cash and cheques to shop and pay their bills.

"The withdrawal of cheques would cause serious difficulties to some older people who do not feel comfortable with the Chip and Pin system and do not like carrying around big amounts of cash.

"We urge the next government to ensure the use of cheques is guaranteed until alternative payment methods are in place which older people feel comfortable with."


Online shopping and internet banking had become more convenient with cards, according to Paul Smee, chief executive of the Payments Council.

However, he added that cash had "survived the fall of the Roman Empire" and so would continue.

But Dave Birch, a payments expert and director of Consult Hyperion, said that the development of mobile phones to receive payments was a "critical step" in the move towards automated payments systems.

"The issue of anonymity is one of the key reasons why people like cash," he added.

Recent figures showed that traditional card fraud had dropped, but phishing attacks over the internet had risen.

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