A new normal for cash, perhaps

Cash use was affected particularly badly by Covid 19. An ongoing decline in the use of cash was exacerbated by traditionally cash-heavy businesses being closed, and by fears around the possibility of the virus being transmitted via notes and coins.

Although this latter point has now been disproved by tests commissioned by the Bank of England, it appears that some people may have changed their habits permanently since the pandemic.

The number of visits to ATMs has declined, and the value of cash withdrawn has found a new level at around £1.5 billion per week compared to £2.2 billion each week in 2019. The value of banknotes issued by wholesale cash centres has stabilised at around 75 per cent of the value issued in 2019. 

However, more businesses are now returning to cash acceptance. There is less public concern around the handling of cash and people are going back to the high street to shop, rather than relying wholly on the internet. 

Of course, now other concerns have taken over from Covid-19 and the increased cost of living may push some people towards the use of cash for budgeting. Thanks to TikTok, a whole new generation of cash users has been shown that allocating cash into various folders for specific purposes (“cash stuffing”) is a way to keep control of your finances. The most interesting thing is that despite the number of people that solely rely on cash reducing each year, the value of notes in circulation keeps increasing, and new coins are continually drawn from The Royal Mint to meet demand.

It may be that budgeting or saving for a rainy day (not that we’ve seen many of those this summer) accounts for some of the increase, but it would appear that a large number of coins are issued and only used once before being left in a drawer or jar and forgotten.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, with significant amounts of new coin being put into circulation every year, but as cash use decreases you would expect the demand to reduce – and this doesn’t seem to be the case. More work is needed to find out where this cash is going.

A final point to note is that paper £20 and £50 notes will cease to be legal tender from 30 September 2022, as we trailed in our ‘six-month warning’ blog post in March here. Now is the perfect time to take them from their ‘safe places’ and either bank them or spend them. This might just be the rainy day you were waiting for.


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