Third of Brits still rely on cash for essential shopping

New research by travel cash provider Bidwedge has revealed that almost a third of Brits still rely on cash for essential shopping, even as UK retailers opt for card-only payments over concerns that coins and notes could aid the transfer of infectious Covid-19 particles.

The survey – conducted across 2,083 UK adults – found that 32% of Brits (roughly 15,570,000 people) still prefer to use cash for their essential shopping and goods despite nationwide efforts to prioritise card payments.

An additional 60% of adults – around 28,820,000 Brits – also said that they try to have some cash on their person at all times as it helps them to feel more “financially secure”.

When it comes to holidays, 55% of Brits (17,780,000 people) said that they would still be utilising cash as their main payment method, while 13% of Brits (a small but significant 5,476,000) say that cash is “essential to their livelihood” and prefer for their income to be paid in cash.

Shon Alam, CEO of Bidwedge, commented on the research:

“Despite all the calls from people to use cards, cash is still incredibly important to millions of Brits across the country. Communities rely on cash and for businesses, it is cheaper for them to process cash rather than card payments, so it actually can help thousands of firms that are struggling right now”.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation made headlines for appearing to dissuade people from using cash during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. The institution’s Cash Task Team published guidance in April advising anyone who comes into contact with cash to practice rigorous personal hygiene to minimise the risk of infection:

“Contact-less electronic or mobile payments should be the preferred option to reduce the risk of transmission. Where this is not possible, those handling cash should adhere to the basic preventive measures […] regular handwashing and avoid touching of the mouth, nose, or eyes when having been in contact with any surface that can potentially be contaminated”.

This advice was issued during the first wave of the pandemic, when information about the nature of Covid-19 was still sparse and general advice tended to err on the side of caution.

Alam nevertheless warns that there is still little room for complacency, and offers some tips on how to use cash safely during the pandemic:

“Most phone and tablet wipes will disinfect our new plastic notes quickly and, following guidance from the World Health Organisation, remember to wash your hands after handling physical money and don’t touch your face.

“Many cash dispensers are disinfecting money before it comes out of the wall, so try and find cash point that is doing this and try and pay as close to the total sum to avoid receiving too much change and passing on unnecessary coins”.