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The rapid change to cashless (and cardless)

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I tweeted the other day how many places are now cashless.

This is definitely true in most Northern European countries. In Poland, I haven’t used a banknote for two years or more. In the UK, I went to the theatre and they told me they wouldn’t take my banknote (by law, they have to, but that’s another matter).

In many countries, cash and cards have moved to contactless mobile although, as can be seen in response to my tweet, this is not true everywhere.

Nevertheless, UK Finance released a report today that truly shows how things are changing in that small little colony. Standout stats in their report included:

  • 57 per cent of all payments in the UK were made using cards.
  • Debit cards remained the most common payment method, growing by over 23 per cent to reach a total of 19.5 billion payments (48 per cent of all payments made).
  • Almost a third of all payments in the UK were made via contactless methods in 2021, up 36 per cent compared with 2020.
  • The number of cash payments decreased by 1.7 per cent to 6 billion, although it remained the second most commonly used payment method, accounting for 15 per cent of all payments made in the UK last year.
  • During 2021 there were 23.1 million consumers who used cash only once a month or not at all, a significant increase from 13.7 million consumers the previous year. At the same time, there were 1.1 million consumers who mainly used cash when doing their day-to-day shopping.

It’s that last stat that stands out for me. Almost 10 million people have switched to cashless in the last year. In an island population of around 40 million adults, that’s a huge number of switchers.

I don’t know about you, but my behaviour has changed. From someone fairly negative about Apple Pay and the Apple Wallet, I’m now an active participant. It’s easier than cards and quicker. I’m not the only one. According to Statista, global iPhone users that activated Apple Pay grew by more than 65 million people in 2020 and by almost 150 million in 2019. That’s some going. In fact, Apple Pay achieved a significantly higher market share in the United States in 2020 than Google Pay.

Hmmm …

This move from cash and card to cashless and cardless has been predicted for a long time – I remember presenting about the death of cash and cards over a decade ago – but it now seems to be a reality. I have one issue with it all. How do you tip, give or deal with people who don’t take cards?

This comes home every time I’m in a restaurant, entering a hotel or spot a busker. Sure, they can take cardless, but does the bellboy really want to stand at your door with your bag and a contactless terminal? You may say, what’s the difference to the old days when they had their hand out? It may be no different, but it is more difficult.

Postnote: Dave Birch always finds a way around these things …

Dave with a busker at Canary Wharf who accepts contactless tips

Postnote 2: The most cashless countries in the world

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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