5 reasons I no longer carry cash on me in the U.K.

Nov 6, 2019

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Since moving to the U.K. several years ago, I’ve found myself carrying less and less physical cash with me. It’s now at the point where I’m more likely to have U.S. dollars or euro in my wallet leftover from my last trip abroad than any pound sterling.

Here’s why.

1. Cash doesn’t earn points

Every single time I spend even a penny — from a purchase as small as a packet of chewing gum to a £1,000 airline ticket or hotel booking — I think about the best way to earn points for the purchase.

If I pay with a card that earns points, I am maximising my travel and getting closer to my next travel goal. If I’m paying with cash (or even a debit card), I’m not. It’s simple.

Read more: 7 reasons you shouldn’t be scared of credit cards

(Photo by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy)

2. Do “cash only” companies really deserve my business?

I can understand if a tiny independent corner shop doesn’t want to accept Amex for me to pay for a 50p packet of crisps. So for a tiny purchase like that, I will usually pick a supermarket chain that I know accepts all cards with no minimum purchase.

For larger purchases, like a nice bottle of wine or a full meal, if I’m told it is cash only, I’m unlikely to return. It won’t be a deal breaker for most people, but with so much choice and so many retailers happily accepting cards (even split bills), I would rather pick somewhere at which I can earn points on the purchase.

3. “Card only” is becoming more common

There is a cost involved in retailers processing card transactions, though E.U. regulations cap this in the U.K., meaning card issuers cannot charge retailers whatever they want to process transactions. There is also a cost in processing cash transactions in that the retailer must have enough cash on hand to be able to give the correct change to each customer. All the cash collected each day needs to be counted, reconciled, sorted and then banked — a cost of a different sort.

So while some businesses insist they don’t take cards, I’ve noticed some businesses go the other way, becoming “card only”. This is becoming more common in Scandinavia, though this year I’ve seen it start to pop up more in the U.K.

(Photo by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy)

4. I have a card for every situation

This might not surprise you, given I write about cards for a living, but I have quite a few. My wallet is pretty small but it’s armed with a carefully selected portfolio of cards that cover me for just about every situation. I have a high-earning American Express card, then a points-earning Mastercard for where American Express isn’t accepted and my trusty fee free debit travel card for when I’m abroad.

Read more: How to plan your UK credit card portfolio

5. Coins are cumbersome

I dislike having a wallet filled with coins in my pocket. They’re bulky, can stretch out the coin compartment and, with my luck, are usually about 5p or 10p short of any amount I actually need to get rid of them.

I appreciate that pound sterling notes are small, crisp and easy to use, but coins tend to end up in a spare change jar at home, never to be used again. I prefer either a slimline wallet with just a few cards or just using an Apple Pay/Google Pay system where all the cards are saved on my phone.

Bottom line

There are always opportunities to maximise your spending, from the smallest purchase to splurging on the holiday of a lifetime. If you’re always thinking about how to earn even 1 Avios every time you part with your cash like me, you’ll be surprised at how quickly they add up.

Featured image by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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