Cash is King?

Shutterstock image - paid for on monthly account Dec 2021
Cash is King?
Veronica Fritzon and Ellen Carpenter | 2021 - Christmas Issue | United Kingdom
Veronica and Ellen consider a cashless society. Image: Shutterstock.

‘Cash is King’ is a phrase used on a regular basis by many people and reflects the belief that money – cash - is more valuable than any other form of investment such as stocks or bonds. This week it has come to our attention that the well-known saying may no longer be relevant or true. Why do I say this? Tuesday, I went to my local Fish and Chip shop in Carshalton and card was the only accepted payment. Today, I went for coffee to my church café and again I encountered a similar situation - no cash taken; all transactions had to be via card.

Now, if like us you are a bit ‘old school,’ preferring sometimes to pay in cash, this trend, whilst being progressive, is very frustrating and sometimes smacks of a challenge to our freedom of choice. Indeed, critics says it is a ploy by the banks to keep track of your spending and adjust their advertising to their customers' spending habits; something much easier to do, presumably, if they know how, where, when and why you are spending your money.

The move towards a cashless society is said to be ‘leaving the vulnerable behind’, particularly the elderly, who are long used to a cash society, not least using it as a way to budget (withdrawing, for example, a specific amount a week, rather than waving a credit/debit card in different directions). Many bank branches are closing down or restricting their opening hours. Frustratingly, this means that some of the remaining branches we visit are always busy, with queues snaking out of the door – proof in itself, perhaps, that the ‘old fashioned’ service over the counter with a bit of friendly chatter thrown in is not quite redundant.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a boom in online/digital payments. In lockdown, people were unable to carry out face to face transactions to the same degree, and this too will perhaps accelerate the journey into a cashless society, where payments for all services are made electronically instead of using banknotes or coins or authorized from a bank account. Even before lockdown, it is estimated that cash usage dropped from 50% in 2004 to 14.9% in 2019; some critics even argue that coins and banknotes could disappear from the UK entirely by 2026.

Bitcoin is another new form of cryptocurrency which gets a lot of publicity: some positive, some negative. Either way, this may become a game changer in the not-so-distant future. Founded in 2008, the bitcoin is a virtual code, not a coin, and kept in virtual wallets that hover in virtual space. The hard sell is not just in its originality, or virtual reality as it were, but the fact that it is not kept in banks where you are charged a transaction fee and, being part of a global market rather than a specific country, has no exchange rates. At the moment, cryptocurrency is for those who like to gamble, or have money that they can afford to lose; it is not a secure form of currency and not widely recommended at the moment. However, while many of the new methods of exchanging cash might seem strange to us now, or in a curious, experimental stage, who knows what sort of currencies tomorrow might bring?