Scottish consumers have highest cash and mobile payments usage in Britain

Scottish consumers have highest cash and mobile payments usage in Britain

New research published by Financial Consultants, Enryo, shows that Scotland has both the highest cash and mobile payment (e.g. Apple/Google Pay) usage in Britain.

Over half of the country’s population (54%) now uses cash at least once a week to pay for goods and services, while 33% of Scots use their mobile phone to make payments at least once a week.

These figures not only reflect the increase in the number of bank branches which are closing across the country, but also the huge efforts being made to educate bank customers of the benefits and ease of mobile/digital payment methods.

The research also shows that the number of adults using cash to pay for everyday goods and services increased by 20% in 2021 as people’s purchasing habits started to return to normal after the Covid lockdowns seen in 2020 ended.

There are three distinct categories of cash user in the UK; those that frequently use cash to pay for day-to-day items (every day or more often than once a week), those that regularly use cash (once a week or once a fortnight) and those that rarely use cash (once a month, less than once a month or never).

Frequent cash users in the UK increased by 20% from 12 million users in 2020 to 14.4 million in 2021. Around 3.3 million UK adults now use cash every day in 2021 (+2.8 million on 2020).

At the same time, regular cash users in the UK increased by 4% from 14.4 million users in 2020 to 15 million in 2021.

The research also found that rare cash users in the UK fell by 13% from 24.4 million users in 2020 to 21.3 million in 2021. Around 3.3 million UK adults said they never use cash (-3.6 million on 2020).

Overall, nearly 24 million adults in the UK - nearly half the UK adult population - used cash at least once a week in 2021. This is an increase of 3.3 million (+16%) compared to 2020 and is likely due to a return to normal behaviour in 2021 following months of lockdown in 2020.

The research also found that in 2021 older people in the UK were more likely than younger people to use cash at least once a week (30% of 16-24 year olds, compared to 58% of those aged over 55).

The highest level of Brits using cash at least once a week are to be found in Scotland (54%), the West Midlands (53%) and the North West of England (52%). Meanwhile, adults in the East of England, the South East and the South West (all 38%), reported the lowest cash usage.

Cash usage is becoming much more concentrated among those people who are not yet ready to move to other payment methods – primarily older and those who are financially or digitally excluded. The research also shows that there are about 14.4 million frequent cash users in the UK (those using cash every day or more than once a week) and they are likely to be older and earn under £25,000 per year.

The growth in the number of people making mobile payments (e.g. Apple/Google Pay, mobile phone/wearable payments) continued during 2021. Around 4.8 million UK adults used mobile payments in 2021, up 55% from the previous year (3.1 million in 2020). Nearly 30 million UK adults have still never used mobile payments - down 4 million from the previous year.

The findings suggest that the pandemic may have encouraged some people to use mobile payments, perhaps as a reaction to shops encouraging people to pay by a contactless method of payment.

Unsurprisingly, younger people in the UK are using mobile payments much more than older people. Around half (47%) of all 16-24 year olds reported that they used mobile payments at least once a week in 2021, compared to only 17% of those aged over 55.

The research also showed that of those people using mobile payments at least once a week, those in Scotland (33%), the West Midlands (32%), East Midlands (32%) and Yorkshire (32%) have the highest levels of mobile use. The regions with the lowest mobile payment usage are in Wales (26%) and the South West (22%).

David Fagleman, director at Enryo, said: “Last year we predicted that there would be an increase in cash use in 2021 as spending habits returned to pre-pandemic levels. Although the 20% increase in cash usage seen in 2021 clearly demonstrates that cash remains a very important method of payment for a significant segment of society, the pandemic has certainly changed cash as a payment method forever.

“Many people are still very worried at the speed with which the UK is moving towards a cashless society, but this is unlikely to happen over the next decade simply because millions of people still rely on cash for their day-to-day goods and services.”

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