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Cash v Cards

Friday, 15 June 2012
Credit card lending contracted in April, representing the fourth time it has contracted in the past six months and suggesting that consumer confidence remains low.   Repayments exceeded new borrowing by £118m, marking the biggest monthly contraction since August 2006, according to the latest figures from the Bank of England.  With the UK still in recession and many people concerned about job security, the figures suggest that people are focusing on reducing their debts, and putting tighter controls on their spending.  This trend seems to be given greater credence by latest figures issued by the British Retail Consortium which, based on over 9.4 billion transactions in shops, shows cash was used 5.7% more in 2011 than the previous year, accounting for 58% of all payments.  In contrast, the percentage of transactions carried out by card fell by 10.53%.  In 2011, debit cards made up 29.1% and credit and charge cards 11%.
Perhaps taking heed of this, two recent developments are making it easier to get cash out of an ATM.  Customers who use the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) or NatWest mobile banking app can now request cash, up to £100, via their smartphone.  They are given a six-digit code to enter into an ATM to release the cash.  Access to the app requires a password, and the withdrawal code will be hidden until the user taps the screen.  NCR is also looking for partners for their card-less and PIN-less ATM withdrawal system that sees customers initiate transactions through their mobile phones and then scan 2D barcodes on the machines' screens.
Banks are also trying to increase the appeal of contactless by raising the spend limit to £20.  Over 17.7 billion of all consumer cash payments are for amounts under £20 – with a majority of these being for purchasing groceries, followed by payments made for dining out.  Maybe the recession and desire for greater personal control on spending will provide the final kick to get contactless really on the move in the UK.
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