Are UK Consumers Done Carrying Cash?

Study finds 20% prefer using apps to process payments at shops

Author: Cliff Annicelli

August 7, 2017

Are consumers in the UK tired of using cash to pay for goods and services at UK stores? According to a survey run by shopping app Ubamarket, a significant minority of them are.

Recent polling of more than 2,000 UK adult consumers found that 20% of respondents preferred using an app to pay for items. The same figure, 20%, said they consciously avoid shops, restaurants, newsagents, cafes and bars that only accept cash. 

The survey seems to indicate a stronger commitment to mobile payments than some other recent studies. (It’s worth noting that Ubamarket offers a digital payment service within its app.) For instance, a November 2016 survey by uSwitch found that only 17% of UK internet users had ever made an in-store mobile payment.  

However, there signs of an increase among non-cash payments within the UK. Last month, the British Retail Consortium's (BRC) reported that 2016 was the first year for which the share of debit card purchases (42.6%) surpassed cash (42.3%) for all retail transactions in the UK. And when combined, debit, credit and charge cards were used for 54.0% of retail purchases last year.

The UK isn't alone in seeing a trend of consumers using cash less frequently. Nearly half of US digital buyers ages 18 and older surveyed in May 2017 by American Express said they rarely or never used cash for purchases.

The BRC study found one positive for cash, though. The average transaction value (ATV) of a cash purchase in the UK grew to £9.87 ($13.32) in 2016, up from £9.21 in 2015.

The BRC attributed that rise to the increased use of non-cash payment methods like debit cards for lower-value transactions.