One in six Brits is now a “card-only” shopper

One in six British shoppers (17%) is now a “card-only” consumer who never uses cash to pay for their shopping in an average day.

A further two in five people (38%) describe themselves as “card-first” shoppers, who would typically try to pay with a card first before they have to pay with cash. Those are some of the findings from a new study by Square, which looked into the changing attitudes towards paying for goods and services in modern Britain.*

The findings follow data from the British Retail Consortium released in July which showed that, for the first time, more than half of all purchases in the UK were by card, not cash.** But as consumers’ behaviour changes, not all businesses are keeping up with the times, especially among Britain’s small firms.

Square’s research found that up to three million of Britain’s small businesses still do not accept cards. Yet six in ten of us (60%) would shop more at small businesses in our local area if we could pay by card. These local businesses are missing out on potentially millions of pounds in lost sales – more than one in four shoppers (27%) hasn’t bought something because they couldn’t pay with a card.  Yet 44% of small business owners think they don’t miss out on sales if they don’t accept cards.

While cash isn’t completely dead, it’s definitely taking a less central role in our lives. According to Square’s research: nearly one in three of us (30%) haven’t taken out cash from an ATM or bank in the last week. The average Brit has just £32.54 in cash in their purse or wallet right now – given that the average transaction in the UK is £18.42, this isn’t even enough to cover two typical purchases.***

Consumer attitudes have changed to such an extent that people avoid shopping with businesses that don’t accept cards. One in five of us (19%) say we’re less likely to use a business where we can’t pay by card, while more than one in four of us (26%) feel that businesses that don’t take cards are old-fashioned.

Commenting on the research findings, Sarah Harvey, UK Lead for Square, said: “British business is fiercely competitive, and nowhere is that truer than on the High Street.  Small businesses are competing with larger competitors who have greater resources, so they need to make use of every advantage they can get. That means making it as easy as possible for their customers to buy from them, including accepting card payments alongside more traditional methods like cash.

“Technologies like Square mean that there are fewer barriers between businesses and their customers, so they can ensure they always make a sale.”

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