A cashless or a choice-less society??

11th July 2014

An interesting and eye-opening experiment in the Daily Mail this week as reporter Holly Black trooped off to Kings Lynn in Norfolk to see how the banks’ drive towards a “cashless” society would go down outside London. Answer – it doesn’t!

As Holly found, though in London she can order and pay for a minicab using an app, buy a coffee or lunch with her mobile phone and park a car without putting coins in a meter, outside it’s not so simple.

She encountered many independent local shops without machines that take a card transaction due to the lack of superfast broadband or that it costs so much for a retailer to rent such a thing, and found paying for a couple of small items by card wasn’t allowed as they didn’t top the minimum spend set by the shopkeeper.

I think the sentiments she expressed mirror those of the Keep Me Posted campaign. Her view was that banks are desperate to get us to go digital to save money (heard that before!) and says “if you listen to the banks, they would have us think that cash as a means of payment is dead. And maybe in London it is.”

And there’s the rub. So many financial institutions and service providers have their headquarters in the capital that maybe they think the rest of the UK behaves the same. Just because they don’t use paper bills and statements, or cash in this case, they think the rest of us can do without it too. It would be interesting for those that make the decisions to push people towards digital to listen to some more regional voices, to hear the stories from those in rural areas who can’t get broadband, and those who worry about the technology which can whip money out of your account in seconds, and for them to understand we are not all alike and we all want to make different choices.

But there was one other comment Holly made that made me bristle. She asserted that paying by card is quicker and “psychologically preferable” because research has shown that by paying with a card you don’t feel like you’re spending money. When so many people are in debt, and failing to manage their money properly, it seems going ever more digital is yet another device to make people lose control. And what’s worrying is those prudent people who may actually like using cash as they find it helps them keep track of their finances may in time have that choice eroded too.

Judith Donovan

You can read Holly’s article in full here… http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2685123/How-banks-coining-trying-make-cashless.html