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Older people and the cashless society

Cash card being swiped

Published on 09 August 2019 02:50 PM

The UK’s move towards becoming a ‘cashless society’ could be damaging to our older generation.

The number of people foregoing physical cash transactions in favour of card payments and online banking is steadily increasing – experts are warning that this could be damaging for lower-earners and older members of society.

In Britain, the amount of yearly card transactions (both ‘contactless’ and the more traditional ‘chip and pin’), overtook cash-based transactions in 2017. In the same year, some 3.4 million British consumers were found to have made no cash transactions, instead relying entirely upon card. Then, at the beginning of this year, Burslem, in Stoke-on-Trent became the first town to lose all of its free bank-run cash machines.

Yet, however convenient card transactions might be, financial specialists are warning that a cashless economy could have dire consequences for the most vulnerable of society. For those on low incomes, cash transactions are often more preferential to debit payments – since managing your money in cash form avoids the risk of becoming overdrawn and facing extra fees. Mortality rates in the homeless population will likely increase, with individuals unable to set up bank accounts, and thus unable to buy the essentials for nights spent sleeping rough.

There are concerns for how the UK’s older generation might cope in a cashless economy also. Economic expert Delphine Strauss points out that older people reliant on others to do their grocery shopping, for example, often have to provide cash payment for such services. Many who are partially sighted have expressed worries surrounding the inaccessibility of touchscreen chip-and-pin pads. Moreover, there have been some fears that there will be a rise in financial scam victims, especially in the older community, where individuals might be less alert of the ‘red flags’ for scams based in online banking, and debit transactions, over traditional cash cons.

Sarah John, the Bank of England’s chief cashier, said in a statement:

“Although its use is declining, many people, including vulnerable groups, still prefer to use cash. It is important that everybody has a choice about how they make payments.”

At Age UK North Tyneside, our Information and Advice team are happy to help you in managing your finances through benefits checks – in May of this year it was revealed that the team had helped 3,074 people in the borough claim a total of £1,178,488 between them. You can book appointments with the team through ringing 0191 280 8484 (Option 1).

Additionally, Meadow Well Connected run a ‘digitally connected’ session, free for all local people to use, open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. with no time limitations, for those who might need help in gaining basic digital skills or accessing the internet to manage their online life. The team can help you manage your money through online bill-paying services, and software designed to help you with budgeting.

The BBC also offer a beginners’ guide to using the computer, available here.

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