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How does cashless work in the gig economy?

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One of the biggest challenges in moving to cashless is that there are a lot people who rely on cash. I hate it when you go to a restaurant and pay by card, because there’s nowhere to leave a cash tip. Sure, there’s a service charge, but will that be given to your host and waiter or waitress? Equally, I see beggars on the street demanding cash but do I carry cash anymore? Not really. So, I cannot give them anything.

Of course they could carry a contactless payment terminal, or something from one of the card providers, but that’s not very likely if you’re homeless or a server in a restaurant. What to do? Carry cash around? Who carries cash around these days?

Cash, like video cassettes, feels like a last century system. It doesn’t work anymore. But then some people recognise this and, almost eight years after our last encounter, is recognised by Terry the busker in London.

I first met Terry in 2018 when diving down to Canary Wharf with Dave Birch.

Dave was incredibly impressed that a street busker could take contactless payments, and we spent ten minutes chatting with Terry. Then, the other day, I was entering the subway in the West End and there he was again but, this time, with two contactless terminals offering an automatic £2 or £5 payment.

I gave him a fiver and Terry told me I was the first person ever to touch the £5 mark. Neat.

It made me realise that the busker, gig and service economy is losing out in our new cashless world unless the busker, gig and service economy go contactless.

Obviously there are alternatives – you could pay with beads or crystals – but cash still has a firm position in society, particualry for those who provide service. Then add on to this the role of cheques/checks. Is there a role for a cheque payument? Funnily enough yes. I still get requests for a cheque to be sent in the post for a payment.

Over a decade ago, the Payments Council tried to ban the use of chques. The deadlinje – literally the dead line – was meant to be 2018. But then there was a big hoo-ha about the elderly being exclyuded and the impact of a ban on small businesses, and the ban was removed.

So we are in 2024 and cheques are still used in Britain (not in some other markets like the Netherlands) and cash is still needed to tip for service. On the other hand, there are some innovative cash users like Terry who have upgraded and moved to fully contactless payments. Well, almost.

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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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