Coronavirus leads to sharp decline in cash

06 May 2020, 07:27 AM
  • Research suggests customer's preference for digital transactions could continue
Coronavirus leads to sharp decline in cash

From contactless to Apple Pay, many retailers will already have witnessed a rise in digital transactions over the years. But following Coronavirus, we could see an even more rapid decline in the use of cash.

According to research conducted by YouGov for ATM network Link, the UK’s cash withdrawals have fallen by 60% during lockdown, as over half of Brits actively avoid using cash in favour of other payment methods.

The decline is the result of contamination fears as it was revealed that COVID-19 can temporarily live on surfaces such as bank notes. As such, many retailers have refused to accept cash payments in order to limit the risk of transfer. But even after lockdown lifts and social distancing measures are eased, we could see the trend for digital methods continue.

The same survey showed that 76% of people think the Coronavirus crisis will affect their future use of cash over the next six months, with many preferring to use contactless or mobile payments, do more online shopping or simply use ATMs less frequently.

That said, bank notes and coins aren’t about to become history quite yet. Link data shows that there are still 11 million withdrawals a week, totalling £1 billion. And whilst the number of transactions has decreased, the amount per transaction has increased, with many people saving their cash for emergencies.

Retailers will no doubt have adapted to the change in behaviour during lockdown; some retailers have begun offering the option of card payment for the first time, whilst others are being very vocal about the fact that they do accept cash, knowing people may prefer the quicker payment option if it’s managed in a safe way.

Looking to the future, many customers who may have been apprehensive about digital transactions in the past, have perhaps become more comfortable with shopping online or paying by card, and may continue to do so in the future. However, when concerns over traces of the virus on surfaces eases, the convenience of using cash may set back in.

As with any behaviour trend that has emerged during lockdown, it remains to be seen how habits will shift or continue once businesses reopen and restrictions ease.

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