contactless cash payments
Insights Paytech World-Region-Country

Cash Remains Popular Across the UK and Europe Despite Cashless Initiatives and Innovations

The consensus across the UK is that we live in a cashless society as paytechs continue to innovate new technologies. However, research from Accenture has found that cashless may not be as popular as once believed, as cash remains the second most popular payment method across the country. 

The poll of over 3,000 UK adults found that almost two-thirds (63 per cent) are using cash at least five times a month, second only to debit cards, which are used over five times a month by three-quarters (75 per cent) of Brits. This shows the cashless society many perceive the UK to be, is not entirely true.

Cash was significantly more popular than some digital wallet apps, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, which were only used by 17 per cent and 10 per cent respectively at the same frequency.

Cash (33 per cent) and debit cards (36 per cent) were the most popular in-person payment methods for small ticket purchases for retail or services (e.g. groceries, clothing, transport etc). This is compared to less than one in 10 (six per cent) who used their digital wallets. Respondents preferred credit cards (41 per cent) and debit cards (38 per cent) for big-ticket purchases (e.g. appliances, technology, travel etc).

Brits were also shown to be some of the world’s top ‘tappers’ – over four in five (83 per cent) tap to pay when using their debit cards. This is significantly higher than the global average of 58 per cent, and markets like the US (26 per cent). Only Australia (also 83 per cent) came close to the UK.

The future of UK cashless payments

Looking to the future, over a third of Brits (36 per cent) agreed that biometrics will be widely used by 2025. Seven per cent said they would use it as their primary in-person payment method if available by 2025. This translates to an estimated £95billion of UK payments moving to biometrics by 2025.

The research also found that external macroeconomic factors are shaping consumers’ payment choices as they look to reduce debt interest. Two out of ten credit card users considered switching to other payment methods. Over 60 per cent of these respondents are looking for ways to reduce interest payments through non-interest payment options like debit cards and cash.

The global study, Payments Gets Personal, found that up to £366million of UK payment revenues could be at risk in the next three years. Especially for traditional lenders that are slow to invest in next-generation payments options. They risk losing market share to new digital payment providers.

Sulabh Agarwal, global payments lead, Accenture
Sulabh Agarwal, global payments lead, Accenture

Sulabh Agarwal, global payments lead, Accenture, said:

“The UK’s transition to becoming a ‘cashless society’ has been spoken about as an inevitability for years. However, cash remains a crucial method of payment for most UK consumers, who still rely on its accessibility and convenience and ability to budget in the current high inflation macro-economic climate.

“The challenge for lenders is striking the right balance. There is clearly an untapped revenue potential in the shift to next-generation payments options. Brits have made clear they believe biometrics will be their go-to method of payment in the near-future. However, digital solutions are not right for everyone or every situation. Therefore, a truly ‘cashless’ society will remain a distant reality.”

US cashless trends

Merchant Machine, the comparison website’s, data reveals that every US state but two (Alabama and Delaware) want to go cashless. It makes sense that the majority of Americans are okay with parting ways with cash: fewer people in the US are using it at the checkout than five years ago. Four in 10 (43 per cent) people don’t carry it at all. Even President Biden is exploring the possibility of a digital dollar.

The covid-19 pandemic is considered to be a watershed period in America’s embrace of cashless methods. One YouGov poll found that over a third (36 per cent) of people in the US who preferred to use cash to make payments found themselves making cashless payments more during the pandemic.

The data reveals the percentage of positive tweets posted about cashless societies in every state in the US. The most positive states are:

  • South Dakota (where 39.22 per cent of tweets are positive)
  • North Dakota (38.78 per cent), Iowa (38.48 per cent)
  • Wisconsin (38.27 per cent).

Most states in the country tweet positively about going cashless at least 25 per cent of the time.

Local moves to transition away from cash in South Dakota include Wind Cave National Park’s switch to cashless payments. In North Dakota, a proposed bill to ban cashless stores — a move already made elsewhere in the country — was rejected.

But why are Americans so in favour of saying goodbye to cash? According to one study, a third (33 per cent) of Americans feel that not having cash would make travelling easier, while others think that cashless payments are more efficient and better for budgeting.


Not favoured everywhere

Not every country feels the same positive way towards cashless technology as the US does. Similar to the UK, France is anti-cashless too. In fact, according to Merchant Machine, it is the most anti-cashless country in the world.

Over half (54.40 per cent) of the tweets posted there about going cashless are negative. According to a 2019 study, cash is the dominant payment method in France, making up 59 per cent of transactions, and nearly half (44 per cent) of people in France think it is “important” or “very important” to have the option to pay for things in cash. More and more people in France are also choosing to withdraw cash from their bank accounts and keep it at home.


  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

Related posts

Mastercard and Qashio Forge Path to Cashless Corporate Management in UAE

The Fintech Times

Asia’s Connections With Latin America: Insight From Paytech Nuvei

Claire Woffenden

Value of Biometric Mobile Payments To Soar 365 per Cent Within Five Years

Tyler Pathe