Over much of the past decade, cash payments have generally been in decline, with more consumers choosing to spend through other means – often for good reason, such as to take advantage of the extra protections given to credit card users.
However, the latest figures from the Payments Council show this trend has reversed; cash purchases are up in terms of volume, from 20.6 billion transactions in 2011 to 20.8 billion in 2012, and now account for 54% of all purchases made in the UK.
There are more ATMs in the UK than ever before, over 66,000 in total, and every second over £6,000 is withdrawn from cash machines nationwide.
David Hensley, head of cash at the Payments Council, says: “Cash is still a vital part of our day-to-day lives, and more than half of all our payments are in cash, reflecting its easy use and its wide acceptance.”
Meanwhile, John Howells, chief executive officer of the LINK ATM Network, notes that the UK is one of the only European countries where the total number of cash machines is still rising.
“The challenge is to make sure the UK’s cash machine network still provides a service that customers want in ten and 20 years’ time,” he adds.
While cash is the oldest form of money, it is facing a changing landscape of payment options, as cheques begin to fade from usage entirely, and contactless ‘wave and pay’ and NFC mobile payments begin to become commonplace.
The years ahead will reveal the long-term role cash has in the UK’s future – and whether it can remain the majority method in the face of new, high-tech and highly convenient alternatives.