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Will customers boycott businesses that don’t accept cash?

2-minute read

Sam Bromley

5 November 2021

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Alongside the government lifting coronavirus restrictions in July, there were calls to boycott any business that refused to accept cash payments.

But why is cash important to customers? And what’s your view on accepting cash payments? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments at the end of this article.

Access to cash is increasingly becoming an issue for customers

Many news outlets and consumer groups have started campaigns to protect access to cash. Telegraph Money has launched its Keep Cash campaign, alongside a call for customers to take their money elsewhere if a business doesn’t accept cash.

Which? also has a similar campaign, Freedom to Pay, which aims to stop the UK “sleepwalking towards a cashless society before it is ready.”

But an HMRC research report suggests that the view from small businesses themselves is different.

Out of 29 in-depth qualitative interviews with small and medium-sized businesses, the HMRC research revealed a “clear preference for digital payments”. Reasons included the ease of card payments, not needing to travel to deposit cash, and feeling vulnerable when carrying cash.

If small businesses aren’t fussed about cash, why do customers care?

Protecting cash protects vulnerable customers

According to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), 10 per cent of adults still rely on cash for all or most of their daily purchases. This means that if the UK went cashless today, millions of people would be affected.

Which? says that people still rely on cash because they might not:

  • have access to digital or online banking
  • have digital skills to set up online banking and payments
  • be able to budget or control their behaviour effectively using cards and digital payments
  • live in areas with good online connectivity
  • trust digital and online banking systems yet

Campaigns like Keep Cash and Freedom to Pay call on businesses to continue accepting cash so that customers won’t be financially excluded.

These campaigns also aim to stop bank branches from closing and free ATMs from disappearing, which both reduce access to cash in communities and further impacts vulnerable people.

What can businesses do to protect access to cash?

Firstly, make sure that cash remains a payment option indefinitely. Even if you prefer contactless, removing the ability to pay in cash risks excluding many who'd otherwise be happy to spend money with your business.

And following the coronavirus pandemic and an acceleration towards contactless payments, highlighting and advertising that customers can pay in cash at your business could even give you an advantage over your competitors.

The good news is that in 2020, the Bank of England found that the risk of coronavirus transmission by handling cash is low.

The government has also scrapped a rule that says shops can only give customers cashback if they make a purchase. According to The Telegraph, more shop owners will soon be able to offer cashback without a purchase following a successful pilot scheme.

What are your thoughts on the cash debate?

With cash usage changing, this looks set to become a bigger topic of conversation over the coming years. We’re keen to know your thoughts.

Is cash still important to you? Or will a cashless society make it easier for you to run your business? Let us know in the comments below and answer our quick survey.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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