Paying Cash Makes a Comeback

Article excerpt

THE cashless society has been postponed. To the amazement of banks and building societies, the number of hard cash transactions rose in 1993, after years of steady decline against the advance of cards and cheques, writes Diane Coyle.

According to figures released by Apacs, an umbrella body for banks and building societies, the number of cash transactions jumped last year by 200 million to an estimated 16.8 billion. Nearly two-thirds of payments over pounds 1 involved cash, adding up to a total of pounds 155m.

Eight years ago cash accounted for more than 70 per cent of payments, but its share has fallen steadily. Cheque use has shrunk too. Payment by plastic - either credit card or, increasingly, debit card - has been on the increase.

There are several possible explanations, Apacs says. One is that, when they feel insecure, people prefer to spend cash rather than buy on credit. Throughout last year, at the tail-end of the recession, consumer confidence was low.

Other explanations involve the growing popularity of car boot sales and a thriving black or "unofficial" economy - in both cases, cash is the only acceptable means of payment. …