It takes money to make money, but it also costs money to have money. For businesses, processing, moving and depositing cash is expensive. For consumers (at least for me), most of the time its a pain to have in your pocket, but some of the time it's a helpful thing to have. So should we keep thing thing called cash?
The UK's readiness to move away from cash was recently assessed in the aptly named "Access to Cash Review". It's findings (crudely summarised) are that digital payments are convenient, but the UK is not yet ready to move away from cash, and it should make sure it doesn't leave anyone behind if and when it does.
This makes sense. Nine times out of ten, cash is a hassle for me. I don't like having to choose the right notes, and I hate having to deal with the change. I'd much prefer to use my contactless payment card or phone. However, some times, cash is great. For example, when I'm at the beach and can't keep everything dry. Coming from New Zealand, I also know that cash is king in a disaster situation - how would you fill up your car with gas after a natural disaster if the card network is done?
The most vocal distributors of the report's finding that the UK is not ready appear to have been, unsurprisingly, those in the cash access and handling industry. However, they are right to say that we need to ensure that the service of access to cash provision (e.g. ATMs) does not become uneconomic and therefore extinct. They are also right to say that we should protect the right to use cash in some situations. However, all these things need to be balanced as we move forward.
Cash is in decline. But Britain is not ready to go cashless, because digital payments don’t yet work for everyone.