Has COVID-19 affected the use of cash?

In the last few years, the use of cash has been declining as electronic payments have been on the rise, with many believing that cash would eventually become antiquated. In 2008 63% of all transactions were made in cash, in 2018 it was 34% (data from Which). This demonstrates that the use of cash was on the decline before the pandemic. But, has the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this process?

Given the reports about the spread of coronavirus through physical contact, many people will have started to avoid the use of cash payments to bypass physical contact. Therefore, more people will start to use different payment methods particularly contactless methods, such as card payments and phone payments. Many retailers are now asking their customers to avoid paying in cash if possible, in addition to wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

The Bank of International Settlements has said in a bulletin released in April 2020 stating that COVID-19 may speed up the trend towards digital payments worldwide.

The contactless payment limit increased

On 1st April 2020, the contactless spend limit was increased from £30 to £45, this was an attempt to reduce the use of paper money during the covid-19 pandemic (Find out more information here). Payments via cash have decreased by 15% in April 2020. Barclaycard reported that 90% of face-to-face transactions were made via contactless payment in April (Data from Charged Retail). The evidence suggests that it is looking increasing likely that the world will be heading into a cashless society quicker than expected. However, will this move be positive or negative?

What are the pros and cons of a cashless society?



  • A decrease in crime rates as their will be no physical money to steal
  • Money laundering will be more difficult to execute
  • Quicker and easier to exchange currency globally
  • Less fraud and tax evasion
  • You will always be able to pay the exact amount every time
  • More convenient as will always have ‘money’ to hand



  • Higher risks of cyber attacks
  • Risk of contactless payments if cards are stolen – particularly with increased contactless spend limit.
  • The older generation may struggle with new technology.
  • No alternative money if scammers clear out your bank account or if your card provider are experiencing technical issues.
  • Difficultly budgeting without seeing physical money in hand, leading to more people overspending.
  • More difficult to give money to the homeless and to charity collections.



The evidence does suggest that COVID-19 has accelerated the shift into a cashless society, as COVID-19 has caused payments by cash to decline and contactless payments have increased and starting to become the new norm. Individuals need to be aware of the downsides of this move and take actions to mitigate the cons while enjoying the benefits of the cashless society.


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Craig Burton, Partner

Craig Burton

Partner, Sheffield

0114 266 7141