Will Covid-19 Turn the UK into a Cashless Society?

  • Will Hurst, Head of Commercial Development at Monevo

  • 07.05.2020 12:00 pm
  • cashless society , COVID-19

Governments are encouraging consumers not to use cash since the Covid-19 outbreak. However, we were already seeing a steady decline in cash payments and a transition toward digital. Will Hurst, Head of Commercial Development at Monevo explains.

Contactless payments were already on an unstoppable rise to overtake our reliance on physical cash in society pre Covid-19.

The current pandemic simply accelerates this shift. While I don't truly believe cash will ever be replaced entirely in my lifetime, it's use will become a fraction of what it is today.

The pandemic will certainly change some consumers’ behaviours forever and it has been proven and identified that viruses can be transmitted via handling cash.

Businesses, consumers and employees will be aware of this for a very long time even after the pandemic is over (which certainly feels like a long time away). So potentially risking health by handling cash makes no sense for many businesses.

This can be dealt with in a couple of ways, with businesses either deciding to not accept cash or install contactless cash handling systems. The tech is already here today, think self-serve checkouts or cashpoints.

However, these two examples pose the same transmission risks as touching cash for consumers, so contactless card and device payments would become the preferred option. I'm certain that somebody in the industry is already developing the ability to scan a banknote not only for its authenticity, but also to see if it hosts a virus.

Tragically, we've seen elderly members of our society at most risk of significant health complications due to Covid-19. This demographic has typically been the slowest to adopt contactless payment methods and are now forced to use contactless either in store or from home. Few people need physical cash any more with so many options available to complete transactions; from cards, devices, wearable tech and even implants

Businesses that survive the current crisis will be sure to future-proof themselves to handle similar crises in the future, ensuring systems and controls are in place to mitigate the issues that arise from handling physical cash. I therefore expect businesses to adopt new procedures, policies and new tech to deal with cash. It's frightening to think, but who knows when the next pandemic will occur?

Personally, in the far future, I see physical cash as a piece of nostalgia from a pre-21st Century world. Cash will never die due its place in the history of societal development, but the likelihood that cash appears in everyone's wallet and is exchanged in every store, shop or restaurant everyday will continue to decrease.

Cash is certainly no longer king right now.

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