Intelligence

The rise of contactless: a penny for your thoughts?

Did you know that half of all debit card payments in the UK are now contactless? 

For Londoners, perhaps, this is no surprise – given that your morning coffee (an oat milk latte to go, please!) from the small van outside the tube station, your cramped morning commute and your supermarket meal deal can now all be paid for through contactless. Indeed, I wonder how many of the transactions were accompanied by a sheepish proclamation of “It’s so easy to spend like this!” as that now-familiar beep marks that the transaction has gone through. And if you’re spending with your contactless-enabled smart phone or watch, you receive a notification almost instantly, with a summary of the transaction to help you see where the money is going. 

When it comes to spending, contactless is not the only innovation transforming how we manage our money. For example, Facebook Messenger-based Cleo – which hails itself as an intelligent assistant for your money –  helps individuals track their categorised spending habits, and mobile apps like Plum and Moneybox round up your small change and save it automatically for you. These can make spending more efficient and more transparent and build up all important savings pots too. 

Ease and convenience is behind the considerable boon for contactless technology – evidenced by two thirds of UK adults now plumping to use contactless payments. In fact, with 124 million debit and credit cards in circulation across the UK being contactless-capable, this technology  has fast become standard. So normalised is cashless spending that even Monopoly has done away with its notes in favour of tappable cards. 

The rise of this next-generation card payment technology and its increasing normality seems to be tipping the scales towards a more cash-independent society – but this is by no means the demise of cash. Barclays recently announced it would cease to offer cash withdrawal services through local post office, but considerable backlash following the announcement saw Barclays u-turn on the decision. Still, there is a tectonic shift happening across the UK’s retail banking landscape: more than a third of the UK’s physical bank branches have closed since 2015. 

From a business perspective, the overheads of bank branches and cash withdrawal services are more expensive than online banking and cashless spending. But cashless living does not suit everyone, and financial services providers have a responsibility to cater to all. 

Personally, I withdraw cash on a barely-monthly basis, and typically rely on ApplePay. Instead of a purse, I carry a card holder in which loose change is a bulky inconvenience. I know plenty of people who share this sentiment, but I wonder how much cash you’ve got in your purse or wallet right now, and what constitutes your ‘normal’? Are you a connoisseur of contactless? A chip and pin devotee? Or, when it comes to spending your money, is cash still king?

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