• 2022.09.20
  • London: England towards a new cashless society
The United Kingdom is going cashless. You can now open a bank account by simply downloading an app and during the time of a TV commercial…it’s that easy and that fast!
The smartphone is the last frontier of electronic payments in the British capital and while some old customers are still sceptical of using cards, England is on its way to being a cashless country within the next 10 years.
British are accustomed to using technology and the disappearance of cash in the UK is also supported by shops, since hardly anyone accepts cash anymore.
By law they still need to accept cash payments of course, but the shops often do not have change, so you are basically forced to use your debit or credit card instead.
The economic structure is very important for this system to work: in the UK, family-run shops are almost non-existent as now they are almost all franchised chains.
And families are supporting electronic payments as well so they can easily see cash flows and manage their finances at any time.
At the end of the day, they already have all the receipts in real time, and you can easily manage your expenses using online banking and electronic receipts.
Digital payments, with debit and credit cards (or with Google Pay and Apple Pay on the mobile phone) were very popular even before the pandemic but the Covid has certainly accelerated this switch to a cashless society due to the need of touchless payments for hygienic reasons.
I have been living in London for quite a few years now and I admit I rarely have pounds in my wallet (except occasionally to give some cash tips or buy from street vendors – who also accept card payments by the way).
People have simply adapted to this change, without worries or drama.
You can take the bus or the Tube paying the fare with your debit card without even needing to buy a ticket nowadays although the Oyster card will continue to be available for those using passes or who prefer to continue paying for their trip this way.
London buses have also completely abolished the use of cash.
I think healthy British pragmatism is the best recipe for governing while across the Channel, in Europe, they are still debating whether cash should be accepted or not and what is the best way to fight tax evasion.
In Italy, it is not even mandatory yet for shops to accept cards and many shops refuse to accept them or even lie about having the card machine not working to avoid paying taxes to the government.
Shops and merchants in the UK always accept cards even though her Majesty's Government has never made the use of them mandatory.
This way has imposed itself out of habit and convenience.
Helped, however, by a concrete incentive: the banks’ commissions are such that even buying a packet of gum makes sense for the seller unlike in Italy where taxes are really high for the merchants when customers choose to use a card for payment.
As a disadvantage of using cards some people say there is a danger of card cloning but the advantages are certainly more than the downsides.
By using the card all payments are tracked therefore tax evasion is eliminated, payments are correct as there is no problem of checking for the right change.
It is certainly a downside to have all “your movements tracked” in case you have something to hide but if you aren’t doing anything wrong or illegal aren’t there only benefits?

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  • GianFranco Belloli
  • AgeMouse(NEZUMI)
  • GenderMale
  • Jobblogger/musician

I moved to London over 2 years ago but only last year I started writing for a local newsletter for Expats in London telling about my experience in this big city and giving advice to newcomers. London is a very dynamic city and has a lot for everyone but it’s important to have a local point of view to navigate it without getting lost. Let me be your guide to hidden London!

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