Cash Free Britain? - Tonight

Last year the UK saw a real turning point with three quarters of retail sales being made via cards or digital payment methods. Contactless technology has been revolutionary because of its ease and convenience, it is therefore perhaps not surprising that businesses in this country are deciding to go completely cashless and that the use of cash in the UK is in decline.

Reporter Adnan Sarwar investigates whether this trend that is rapidly gathering pace is something that everyone is feeling positive about.

Linda runs a wine shop & bar in Sale, she made the decision to go completely cashless over a year ago. Her reason wasn’t a need to be cutting edge, it was for safety.

“We went cashless because of two robberies that happened on the street. Both the jewellers and another bar and restaurant were done over... so as soon as that happened we decided to move all the cash from the site, which was the obvious thing for us to do [...] I think we are kind of moving towards more of an electronic age now .. everyone is using their phones . .a lot of people here pay on their watches. It has to be a more secure way of doing things and I think that anything that makes businesses and customers feel safer is a positive step.”


In Sweden, they are further down the cashless road. 3 years ago Josefin had a microchip embedded under her skin that acts like a fob and allows her to make digital payments.

The chip was created by Swedish firm Biohax International.

“I open all the doors here with my hand, and I also use it for buying the afternoon snacks in the vending machines I could also use it for riding trains, here in Sweden, and also go to the local gym. A lot of people, of course, raises their eyebrow, and be like, wow, that's something different. But, I would say that the sort of comments nowadays, are very positive”

Josefin Albrektson

Yet despite Sweden being so technologically advanced and with research suggesting the country could go fully cashless as early as 2023 there are people such as the older generation who are fearful at the pace of change, some of whom don’t want to embrace a world of swiping and pin numbers. As Christina Tallberg the president of the Swedish national pensioners’ organisation highlights:

It's difficult to remember these codes.You can't have them written down in your wallet, or in your handbag. That is forbidden. With higher age, it's easy to forget. And then many are feeling very unsure.


However Gabriela Guibourg of the Swedish National Bank confirmed there is no need for people to worry.

We will always offer physical banknotes, so that's not going to be a question - we need to have preparedness for crises, so, we need to have physical cash. And also, because some people still may want to use cash.


These concerns are also being reflected here in the UK. Natalie Ceeney, Chair of the Access to Cash Review, an independent report looking at the future of access to cash across the UK noted:

I think for a lot of people, we're not worried about moving into a cashless society, in fact, half of the population, our research said, would find it fine...


An example of this being local residents of Harlech in Wales who have seen their bank branches, post offices and free to use ATMs close down.

Some people in Harlech feel they have no way to access free withdrawals of their cash.

It’s about six miles to Penrhyn, there is a free machine there, but I don't have a car and the buses are few and far between here. So you end up spending half a day just to get some cash out.

Local Resident

If somebody just needs a tenner to pay for school dinners, or something like that, they're paying one seventy five, straight away, to get it.

Local Resident

However Stephen Jones, Chief Executive of UK Finance that represents the UK banking and financial services sector believes the industry is confident that the role of cash will be protected and that people will be able to pay in the way they wish to pay for the foreseeable future.

From what the voices are suggesting, across consumers, government, regulators, and the banks, I think cash is here and is here to stay. Eleven and a half thousand post offices, up and down the country, including in rural areas, and urban deprived areas, offer basic banking services, and Both Visa, and MasterCard, are evolving cash back schemes, which might enable you to take out cash from a retailer, without necessarily making a purchase, So, there's a lot of innovation going on.

Stephen Jones