UK Markets closed

Seven places where cash is still king

Lana Clements

The rise of debit and credit cards has literally made our pockets lighter. There are even places where paying by plastic is a requirement, not a choice. However, there are still some moments when only hard cash will do.
1.    The Vatican

Plastic is no longer accepted in the world’s smallest state. The changes are a result of Italy’s central bank. The Bank of Italy no longer authorises the Vatican because it doesn’t believe the country respects money laundering regulations or has adequate banking and financial legislation, according to reports.

The Vatican has said talks are under way with other service providers and the interruption to electronic payments was expected to be "of brief duration". In the mean time, it’s euros all the way.

2.    Taxis

If you’re without money and want to get anywhere in a cab, you’ll usually need to make a stop at a cash point if you want to get to your destination.

Some cabs do accept debit or credit cards, but you will have to pay a surcharge of 12.5% or £1 for the privilege in London, depending on which is greater. So even if your driver takes cards, it may still work out cheaper if you can dash to an ATM en route.
A few cab companies will also let you pay for a journey in advance over the phone.

3.    Small businesses and car boot sales

Lone traders or very small businesses often don’t accept credit or debit cards. This is could be because the trader believes the charges it will pay for processing the transaction by card are too expensive or not worth it – often if it’s selling items of small value.

Retailers might get around this by stating that you need to spend a certain amount to pay by card, usually £5-10, and this will then make the processing charge worthwhile. But if you’re visiting markets where there are a hoard of one-man bands stock your wallet with cash beforehand.

Some start-up companies might not be able to take card payments, as they don’t yet have an established relationship with a bank to process the transaction. In some cases, specialist businesses taking orders also decline credit or debit cards as payments, asking instead for a cash deposit to initially be made so that you are less likely to cancel an order.

4.    Buses

If you’re running for a bus and don’t have shrapnel in your pocket you may as well save your breath, as buses are without card readers. Some grumpy drivers or in certain cities you will not only need to make sure you cash, but also the exact change for the fare or you won’t be allowed to hop aboard.

One exception is London where passengers can use the trusty Oyster card but, of course, this is only helpful if there is enough money pre-loaded on the card.

5.    Companies you should steer clear of

Occasionally, a company that doesn’t allow you to pay by debit or credit card is offering a sign for you to steer clear. People who are running an illegal or dodgy enterprise can’t be tracked down as easily if they haven’t entered into legal contracts, such as those to provide credit card payments.

If you’re suspicious about the legitimacy or reliability of a company, don’t hand over cash. Consumers get much more protection if a purchase goes wrong or doesn’t show-up when paying with a credit card, so it’s worth using if you are buying something from the internet and goods or services that you haven’t yet received.

[Related feature: Never pay with cash]

6.    Friends and family

The rise of services such as pingit and O2 Wallet has meant money between friends and family doesn’t just have to move in notes and coins. But sadly it’s still not reached the point where your mate will accept MasterCard for the curry he bought last Friday.

7.    North Korea

Finally, if you fancy a jaunt in North Korea, you should note that your credit or debit card will be of little use.  As of 2010, all transactions in the country must be carried out in the local currency – the North Korean won. 

It’s a slight hurdle that foreigners aren’t allowed to buy won, so your cash usually has to be changed on site. The euro and US dollar are most widely accepted, according to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.