Is cash still king in the capital?

After spending a few years living and working in financial services PR in the Middle East, several things have struck me upon my recent return to London. Yes, it seems wetter here than ever before, and yes, the commute seems to have become even more painful. But, aside from these very predictable patterns, I have another observation about our capital city.

Where has all the cash gone?

Compared to the cash-loving Middle East, no-one seems to carry the stuff in London anymore. This morning, in a queue at one of the many coffee and sandwich chains that frequent London’s streets, I counted six out of the eight people in front of me pay with either a contactless card or by waving their telephone.

One person even paid for a 99p coffee with a contactless card. A 99p coffee! To me, this seems outrageous – do people really venture out into the streets of the capital without even a £1 coin on them?

Personally, I feel as if something is missing if I don’t have a few notes and coins in my wallet. If I need to make a low-value purchase, such as a cheeky coffee or a snack on the way to work, it will always be made in cash.

However, new research published this week goes to show that not only am I an apparent dinosaur when it comes to how I choose to pay on the high street, I will soon have no choice but to stop my cash reliance altogether.

To mark the start of London Technology Week, a new survey has revealed that London will be completely cashless within 20 years. Apparently contactless cards are used for about one in every ten payments in London, and Visa predicts that by 2020, about half of all transactions by Londoners will be on mobile. MasterCard has also revealed that contactless spending in the UK has more than tripled in the past year alone.

And, not only is London leading the way when it comes to digital payments – we are also leading the way when it comes to having the infrastructure to allow these payments to take place. Another study has revealed this week that London is the most connected major city in the world, with just eight per cent of the capital having no internet access.

We already know that London is an established global leader in business services and international finance. However, London is now rapidly making its mark as a global leader when it comes to all things technology related.

I’ll remember that next time I’m standing in the rain at the cashpoint.

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