Is Britain ready to go cashless?

The cash census: not simply a case of ‘to cash and cash-not’

The cash census is a new piece of research from the RSA exploring the use of cash in an increasingly digital economy.

This project aimed to understand the gap between those who reject cash and those who hold on to it; to understand in granular detail people’s attitudes and behaviours towards cash and digital payments and the impact of Covid-19 on this and our cash infrastructure. We hypothesised that this was not simply a case of ‘to cash and cash-not’, but that there were more complex emotional and societal dynamics in play.


If you missed the excellent RSA ‘cash census’ webinar on the 12 May here are ten key takeaways.

1: The transition to a ‘less cash’ society is clear

Infographic: RSA

2: Over half of all payments are made by card

Infographic: RSA

3: Areas with higher levels of deprivation saw 20% less drop off in ATM withdrawals

Infographic: RSA

4: 25% of bank and building society branches have closed over the last five years

Infographic: RSA

5: 96% of people withdraw cash at some frequency

Infographic: RSA

6: 19% of people say that they would struggle in a cashless society

Infographic: RSA

7: From ‘dependents’ to ‘converts’ views on cash are varied

Infographic: RSA

8: 20% of people prefer to be ‘cashless’

Infographic: RSA

9: Is Britain ready to go cashless? Findings

The RSA’s cash census report shared five key findings:

  1. 1: While more people are using online payments and banking, three years on from the Access to Cash Review in 2019, the section of society that would feel left behind in a cashless society, remains almost identical.
  2. 2: Forcing people on to digital could lead to a loss of control over finances and spiralling debts.
  3. 3: Rural communities and vulnerable citizens could become unable to access cash.
  4. 4: A cashless society could lead to increased isolation and reduced human connection.
  5. 5: A cashless society could lead to mistrust in the system due to concerns over fraud, cybercrime, and technology system failures.

10: Is Britain ready to go cashless? Recommendations

The RSA’s cash census report shared three recommendations:

1: Keeping cash infrastructure viable and avoiding ‘cash deserts’

– Protect access to cash through legislation
– The industry should continue to work in partnership to ensure cash infrastructure remains viable. Successful innovations such as shared banking hubs and purchase free cashback should be rolled out, with support across the industry
– LINK role to independently review bank branch closures and recommend solutions should be placed on a statutory footing, with power given to the FCA to monitor and enforce access to cash requirements.

2: Maintaining cash acceptance

– Post Office should examine its SME depositing facilities and seek to improve them where there is high demand
– Regulators should encourage further innovation in SME depositing, to ensure it remains viable for businesses to accept cash.
– Essential government services (both local and national) such as school dinners, council tax and utilities should ensure people wishing to pay by cash can do so, either directly or through a partner (such as PayPoint and Payzone).

3: Supporting people with the digital transition

– Digital education provision from primary school level should evolve so young people are developing the skills to manage their money digitally at an early age
– Education on how to use digital banking securely and effectively should be made available any time a customer enters a branch offering banking services and workshops should be provided through mobile banks, community spaces and banking hubs
– The financial services industry can play a critical role supporting digital inclusion for children and young people working in partnership with charities to subsidise pre-paid cards for children from families on the lowest incomes.


Comments are closed.

Up ↑