The days of cash as king is on the cards


Recently myself and my son-in-law went into a pub near where he lives in Dublin and ordered two pints of Guinness. I handed over my card to pay for the pints. The barman looked at me as if I had two heads: “Cash only,” he said. I waited while the son-in-law sprinted to the nearest ATM and thought: “Fair enough, that’s how it is.”

But then I went to the pictures recently and found cash was not an option, payment was by card only. That annoyed me for some reason.

My mind went back to a clip online where an older gent put down the exact amount of money to pay for his purchase and it was refused. He left the money on the counter and pushed past the staff as they began to accuse him of theft and he saying: “Legal tender, legal tender.”

With the recent chaos at ‘cashless’ Electric Picnic, why do one in five people in Ireland never carry any cash and, of those who do, almost one-third (30%) carry €20 or less?  Why are men more likely than women to never carry cash (24% of men versus 16% of women) and, of those who do carry cash, men tend to carry higher amounts on them than women?

A recent Royal London survey examined the use of cash by people in Ireland, finding that the top five reasons people needed cash regularly was to pay for small daily grocery items such as milk andbread (58%); to pay service providers who prefer cash (38%); to buy lunch or take-away coffee ortea (34%); to give tips (32%); and to donate to charity (27%).

They found almost one in five people (19%) carry more than €100 regularly.

People in Leinster appear to be the least likely to carry cash. One in four people in Dublin (25%), and almost a third ofpeople in the rest of Leinster (28%) say they never carry cash. By contrast, only one in 10 (10%) of those living in Ulster and Connacht never carry cash. Meanwhile, 50% of people aged 18-24 said they never carry cash, while just 10% of people aged 55 or older said the same.

Commenting on the survey findings, Barry McCutcheon, Proposition Lead at Royal London Ireland said: “We’ve seen an increase in cashless payments in Ireland in recent years, so the numbers of people who carry very little cash, or any at all, is unsurprising. Despite the increasingly digital nature of Irish banking and payment systems in recent years, we can see from the survey findings that cash still plays an important role in Ireland’s society and economy, with many people relying on it when going about their day-to-day routines.”

This balances with a European Central Bank survey in 2022 which showed that the majority (54%) of Irish consumers’ in-store transactions were in cash The survey gave weight to the assertion that the younger you are, the less likely you are to carry cash, with less that half (50%) of those aged between 18 and 24 saying they never carry cash compared to only one in 10 (10%) people aged 55 or over.

All sorts of conspiracy theories abound as to why the push is on, from end of the world scenarios to global plans of domination, but according to the World Economic Forum, “If everyone were connected to an end-to-end e-payment infrastructure – a cashless environment – there would be transparency in money flows. Whether it’s international aid or private investment, if everyone in the chain were connected digitally, you could see where the money went and how it was spent.”

It follows that transactions that appear outside of that framework could immediately be flagged and investigated narrowing the focus for the Gardai and forensic accountants.

The disadvantages, though, include exposure of your personal information to a possible data breach, no alternative source of money in the case of technical issues, Electric Picnic case in point, or hacker activity, and lack of control over spending without a physical reminder.

Mr McCutcheon of Royal London observed: “It’s clear that there is a need for cash, with 80% of people surveyed carrying some amount daily.

“In the Department of Finance’s published Retail Banking Review a recommendation was made for legislation to be introduced to safeguard the reasonable access to cash. It is clear from our research that for many, there are times when only cash will do.”

For me cash is king for many things still, especially when I want to give the grandchildren a few bob. The only problem is when they figure out the difference between a ‘grey’ (€5) or an ‘blue’ (€20).

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