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Dare You Go Cashless?

20th Apr 2016
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According to a Co-op survey, cash will be overtaken by contactless technology within a decade.

This column first addressed the proposition of ditching cash over three years ago. Technology and life move fast in the 21st-century since back then the only alternatives to cash were credit cards or bank debit cards requiring chip and pin. By early 2013, most of us had already forgotten how to use cheque-books.

As this dedicated accountant/journalist managed to prove, it was possible to avoid holes in pockets and complete most transactions without cash, although this could be embarrassing.

It also meant neglecting smaller stores in favour of large supermarkets, preferably with machines that would not give you a strange look when you use the credit card to spend 15p. The other consequence was the discovery that credit card statements would barely fit into envelopes as so many pages filled with tiny transactions were required.

The major technological leap has come in two stages, three if you use transport in London.

First, there was the Oyster card, a cashless alternative to paying for tickets at stations. This, enhanced by contactless technology, has now led to redundancies and the closure of all ticket offices, for better or worse.

Next in line came the cashless debit card. It is a reasonable bet that almost everybody would have been wary of these at the start but they are catching on as the Co-op survey demonstrates.

It is also now possible to use mobile phone technology to make payments without hitting a single button and this is where the next advance is anticipated.

The Royal Mint is clearly not happy but, in principle, the idea of presenting a card or phone to a reader and completing a transaction instantly is fantastic. Youngsters in particular are going to be intoxicated by the speed and ease with which they can purchase a can of lager, a bottle of vodka or soon to be taxed fizzy drink.

The question is whether anyone in the accountancy profession, trained to be prudent, is willing to trust technology that potentially puts their money at risk.

We all know about cloning and it has probably happened to the majority of those reading this column. Certainly, I was once simultaneously using my credit card in Spain and London, courtesy of a curry house close to London Bridge.

In reality though, allowing for the fact that the cashless limit has been increased to £30 and there is a restriction on the number of transactions that can be completed in a day, the risk is probably not that great.

However, not many of us would bother to check our bank transactions more often than once or twice a month and therefore theoretically quite a lot of money could disappear before theft was noticed. Against that, the expectation is that your bank would underwrite any loss in this way.

Regardless of these protections, the imposition of typing four numbers is not that great and for this user at least, remains the preferred method of choice.

It will be fascinating to see how matters develop over the next few years but a column in 2020 (when the post EU exit recession/boom will be at its height) might just be nostalgic about the days when we used to use cash for most transactions and dry cleaners made a mint out of replacement pockets.


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By meadowsaw227
21st Apr 2016 11:10

"Cashless" not for me

I choose to pay for nearly all my day to day purchases,pubs,restaurants etc by cash, thus confounding all the companies who make money by selling all my spending habits to all and sundry. 

The number of people who will pay for a coffee, sandwich or a single drink in a pub with cards either by pin or contactless and let the card out of their sight is crazy 

Had a card cloned a few years ago courtesy of a local garage, never again, unless I know the the person in the garage all petrol will be paid cash.

I also recommend my clients where possible to pay cash - as long as the money can be seen to have been drawn out of the bank.

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