Liam Hill, Intern, Money and Mental Health

Cash in or cash out?

11 January 2019

Just before Christmas, the Access to Cash Review released its interim report,Is Britain Ready to go Cashless?, which looked at current trends on how we spend money, and how the diminishing availability of cash might affect our communities.

We asked ourResearch Communityto share their views and experiences of using both digital payments and cash, to shape our response to the review’s call for evidence, andour recent policy noteon these issues. Here’s what people told us:

For many people, access to cash in still vital


Cash as friction

Here at Money and Mental Health, we often talk about ‘friction’ in the context of digital spending (you can read more about this in our report ‘Fintech for good’). Layers of friction between deciding to spend money and completing a transaction can be a useful way to put a break on impulsive spending, and can prevent significant financial harm – for example, having to confirm overnight purchases the next day, or putting a daily cap on spending.

Cash is itself a form of friction in this sense. We know that handing over cash has a greater psychological impact than tapping a card, entering a pin or setting up a standing order. And this fits with what our Research Community told us. Over half (55%) of respondents to our survey agreed with the statement ‘I find it easier to control my spending using cash’.

Ourearly research suggested93%的人在心理健康不佳的时期比平时花费更多的钱。很明显,向完全无现金社会的过渡将使一些有心理健康问题的人无法预算和控制开支。

“Using cash lets me see where my money goes. I have a weekly amount I withdraw from my account and use that for all purchases. I’m happier doing this than using a card as it lets me see how much I am spending and I don’t have to remember to update my budget sheet with the spend.”

Digital anxiety


Similarly, nearly three quarters (73%) confirmed that they like to keep cash for emergencies. Should we really be abandoning cash when it remains useful in providing security and peace of mind?

Digital dividend?

None of this is to say we should (or could) reverse the trend to digital and online payments. Across society, people are increasingly comfortable with digital payments, and perhaps unsurprisingly a majority of our survey respondents (69%) also told us they use card more often than five years ago.

Having complete oversight in one place, on a bank statement or an online or in-app summary, is for many people a useful way to track spending. Some banks also offer ways of summarising and breaking down spending as well, which can help people to analyse and prioritise how we spend money.

65% of respondents to our survey agreed that “it’s easier to keep track of electronic payments than cash payments when I am unwell.” And, as the quote below from a Research Community member suggests, paying with direct debits can allay fears about missing vital payments.


Leaving no one behind

It’s not in anyone’s interests to exclude people from our economy. Our research shows cash is still an important practical and psychological safeguard for some people, offering protection and reassurance to many people that the various forms of digital payment currently don’t.