Why cash can still play an important role in helping to protect the vulnerable in a post-Covid- 19 World

With the dramatic rise in contactless payments, particularly since the emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic, people’s spending habits have been changing rapidly.

According to a survey by the consumer group Which? It found that one in ten people have been refused service by shops when trying to purchase essential items with cash during the pandemic, leaving the vulnerable, and particularly older age groups more comfortable with using cash, facing a dilemma.

Within days of shops shutting for lockdown, UK cash usage halved and, according to The Guardian, it’s now commonplace at shops to find signs reading ‘contactless payments only’.

What Covid-19 did was push anyone who could go digital to go digital and it’s been estimated that during lockdown cash withdrawals from ATMs were down about 60%; demonstrating a huge drop.

The Unbanked

Another concern raised by many, as we contend with the realities of a possible move towards a fully cashless society, is “The unbanked” – those without a current account or an alternative e-money account who may find things like cashing cheques and paying bills are costly and time-consuming.

Those who are unbanked often must rely on check cashing services to cash paychecks because they don’t have direct deposit-and this makes up 3% of the UK adult population, or 1.3 million people.

We know from survey data that the groups of adults more likely to be unbanked include 18-24 year olds and the unemployed, which may help to explain the higher than average levels of the unbanked in London and core cities (4%). Levels four times as low (1%) are noted for villages and communities, even though higher proportions of those 85 and over – a demographic associated with being unbanked. It may be that higher proportions of the affluent elderly in these areas are less likely to be unbanked. Figure 4.2 looks at the unbanked population in another way. We see that out of all those unbanked, 20% (or around 260,000) are in London, compared with London having a 13% share of the total UK adult population.

Other areas with a higher proportion of unbanked adults than the share of all UK adults include the North West (14%), the West Midlands (12%) and Scotland (11%). Conversely, the South East (8%), the East Midlands (5%) and the East of England (4%) have a smaller proportion of those unbanked than their share of the UK adult population.

Cash, and people’s access to standard banking services related to cash payments, is coming under scrutiny like never before. Retailers and other businesses would rather their staff weren’t handling cash right now and there have been reports of businesses washing banknotes in extreme cases, that have potentially come into contact with Covid-19.

However, much like all the items we interact with each day, cash is not the culprit or the only ‘spreader of germs’.

Proponents of contactless card payments will argue of course that paying with plastic is a convenient and safe option, but not always, especially if you have to factor in chip & pin transactions that require users to push a series of buttons to carry out a transaction.

Yes they do lead to quicker transactions to help shorten queues, but we, as a society, can’t just remove the need for cash and with grim stats suggesting one in five Britons would be left adrift if the UK transitioned to a cashless society and, as alluded to above, the groups expected to be most affected include elderly people, the ‘unbanked youth’, those with poor broadband and mobile connectivity, and those struggling with debt for whom cash is easier to manage.

No, cash isn’t the criminal here, and nor are contactless payments the ultimate saviour; it will take a combined solution, technology that enables both contactless transactions and cash payments; and luckily there is one solution already on the market : payment machines, particularly payment machines pioneered by Cammax that can be manufactured to cater for a range of industries that process thousands of transactions daily.

The Cammax Payment Machine

Cammax provide several payment self-service solutions to a range of industries including Tourism, Retail, Council, NHS and Education. From wall mounted machine options through to outdoor floor standing versions., payment kiosks can be configured to offer one, or all, of the following: Chip and Pin, Coins, Notes, Receipts and offer change.

In line with the demand for speeding up transactions, Cammax payment machines can still accelerate transactions, even without relying solely on contactless payments.

Payment kiosks allow customers to make transactions with speed and ease. For example, bill payment kiosks allow customers to pay bills in person with cash quickly and without having to queue to make a payment via a staff member, reducing the risk of vital staff members being exposed to the disease.

Payment kiosks also can also be configured to offer one or all of the following peripherals: chip and pin, coins, notes, and receipts. They can be fitted with a range of additional peripherals including bar-code scanners, receipt printers, RFID readers and even contact-less payment through cards or mobile phones, providing an all-in-one solution that helps allay fears about hygiene and cash but also allows users to pay with their method of their choice.

Improving customer satisfaction

Aside from providing a valuable alternative between cash and contactless pay, payment kiosks can also improve customer satisfaction wherever they are deployed. Providing users with integrated payment methods and a simple touch screen system improves the purchasing process, which, in turn, enhances the customer experience- whether they are paying with cash or not.

Maximising sales

In retail environments especially, kiosks are capable of boosting sales. Loyalty card kiosks allow shoppers to engage in promotions and make purchases online. Fast track payment kiosks also improve the quality of service in all areas, keeping customers happy and encouraging them to return.

There’s no doubt that as we return to what some are dubbing ‘the new normal’ there will be changes in how we live our lives, not least have we pay for goods and services. However, turning to a technological solution that offers the ability for users to pay with cash and contactless cards will no doubt help protect vulnerable groups but will also cater for other generations who prefer contactless transactions.

As the UK grapples with many battles in the midst of this Pandemic, cash may no longer be king but it’s far from being dethroned when there are still solutions available that appease the needs of our cross-generational and cross-demographical population.

For more information about Cammax Payment Kiosks, please click here.

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