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Which UK regions are prepared to go cashless?

The UK is headed towards a 'cashless society' as Brits increasingly rely on payment cards and mobile phones to make purchases. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Archive/PA Images

With 98% of Brits owning a debit card and even homeless charities trialling contactless payments, there is no denying that Britain is on its way to becoming a cashless society.

But what would happen if we were to become a cashless Britain? Analysis of the latest Access to Cash Report, conducted by banking services provider thinkmoney, has uncovered which regions are the most – and least – prepared to go cashless.

According to the report, about 83% of the UK’s population would cope if the UK were to become a cashless society. But some regions would fare worse that others.

READ MORE: 10 countries headed towards a cashless society

Unsurprisingly, the research found London is most prepared for a cashless society. The UK’s capital has recorded an 8.5% decrease in people using cash machines in the past year, with more people turning to their cards and digital payments.

In fact, southern regions appear to be better prepared than northern regions overall, with the south-east and the south-west noting similar drops, at 7.7% and 7% respectively.

Meanwhile, cash withdrawals in Northern Ireland only reduced by 2% between 2017 and 2018, suggesting people living there are likely to struggle in a cashless Britain. This could be because Northern Ireland contains many rural communities, which are likely to be the worst affected if the UK stops using cash.

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Notably, Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK that saw an increase in the number of bank branches between 2012 and 2018, with 8% more in the past six years. All other regions have noted a decrease in bank branch openings, with the largest drop of 21% in the south-west.

Wales, Scotland and the north-west – all down 3.3% – and the north-midlands – down 4.0% – would be similarly ill-prepared for a cashless society.

On top of this, the north-west has been hit hardest by bank closures in recent years. Just last year, it lost 75 – going from 1,260 to 1,185, the research found.

READ MORE: As cashless stores grow, so does the backlash

The Access to Cash report, published in March, warned that the poor, elderly and rural communities are at risk of being left behind if Britain continues to “sleepwalk” into a cashless society.

Already, less than a third of UK transactions are made with cash, and the report’s authors predict this figure will be just 10% by 2026.

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