Weekly Poll – COVID-19: Cashless Payments (Week Beginning 3 August 2020)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 3 August 2020, we asked a question about cashless payments.


Question 1. Do you rely on cash to purchase essential items? 

  • YES – 92% (393 respondents)
  • NO – 8% (32 respondents)

Question 2. Do you have concerns by the large number of retailers and service providers who no longer accept cash? 

  • YES – 95% (403 respondents)
  • NO – 5% (22 respondents)


The majority of respondents raised concerns by the decision of many retailers and service providers to no longer accept cash payments.  Disabled people identified the following main themes and key concerns. We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Impact on Disabled People

Some disabled and older people may not have access to credit and debit cards, which is resulting in an inability to purchase essential items from retailers. This is causing increased stress and anxiety for disabled people, with some respondents questioning whether this would be considered a form of discrimination.

“Some shops are only accepting contactless payments, but I have never done this before and always use cash. Just another thing to make life harder and for me to get anxious again.”

“It is utterly ridiculous that cash is being excluded from legal tender. We had no warning about this, and it is unacceptable as we were not prepared.”

“Many older people do not have credit or debit cards and so are potentially being discriminated against.”

“While I accept the reasons for the preference of cashless transactions, there should always be the option of being able to pay by cash if that is the buyer’s preference or only option. Yet again this could further disadvantage individuals already within the disadvantaged demographic.”

Limitations of Card Payments

Some retailers are opting to move away from using cash to avoid the exchange of notes and coins. However, there was also recognition that the safe use of chip and PIN machines is reliant on continued cleaning of keypads and customer hand hygiene.

“Contactless card payments are helpful because they mean you are not touching any surfaces in order to pay. However, if you are using a card to pay more than the limit for contactless transactions, you are still having to key in your PIN and hold the card machine. I’m concerned that many retailers are not cleaning card machines between customers and that many customers are not cleaning their cards between uses.”

People with visual impairments can encounter problems when using chip and PIN machines.

“Payment card keypads aren’t consistent in their layout and this makes it difficult for visually impaired customers. This has been a problem since chip and PIN was introduced.”

Some retailers and service providers will not accept card payments for small amounts.

“People need to have a choice. It is not always possible to pay small amounts on a card.”


Respondents who rely on others to purchase essential items feel safer to deal with cash, as opposed to sharing their bank card and PIN number. However, it was noted by one respondent that there are schemes in place to assist carers and avoid the use of personal bank cards.

“I rely on carers to get shopping and feel more comfortable giving them cash than my card. Would be good to see other banks roll out carer cards where I can put a small amount on the card which the carer can then use. I think Asda are setting up a similar scheme.”

“My carer gets my shopping and I always use cash. I don’t want to have to give my carer my credit or bank card and PIN numbers (which my card company would tell me not to do anyway) so what do I do?”

“My neighbour gets me messages every couple of days and I always give them cash to pay for them. It’s not that I don’t trust my neighbour but I wouldn’t be comfortable handing over a card and sometimes it’s just a couple of quid if it’s just bread and milk.”

“I do regular small shops for two of my neighbours and they give me cash. I am not going to ask them for their bank cards or credit cards so will need to pay with my card and take the cash from them. Doesn’t seem right and also means I won’t have the right change to give them.”

Managing Finances

 The move towards a cashless society may make it difficult for some people to manage their finances. It is important that the correct information and support is in place to provide financial assistance for people that require it.

“This could result in people getting credit cards and running up debt without noticing. Many people are not used to managing credit cards and work their budgets on cash to ensure they do not overspend and end up in debt. Before a move like this people should have been supported and prepared for managing their money differently.”

“People are going to end up not realising what they are spending and getting into debt. You know when your money is spent and what you have has to do you. I can see this leading to problems for people who are not good at managing their money and then they will get hit with interest payments and so the spiral begins.”

Rural Communities

People living in rural communities face increased risk of power cuts and weaker mobile and internet connections, which makes the shift to a cashless society more challenging.

“I live in a remote rural area where there are many small (one-person) businesses locally who only take cash, not cards. I need to buy logs, coal and some foodstuffs, etc. using only cash. When we get power cuts in supermarkets etc. (regularly in winter) we have to pay using cash as the card machines will not work. Also, there is not a good enough internet signal (and huge areas with no mobile signal) to pay using mobile or via internet. People in cities, as usual, making decisions for everyone without understanding remote rural living.”


The vast majority of disabled people who responded to the poll are concerned by the decision of retailers and service providers to no longer accept cash payments. Concerns ranged from the impact on people who do not have access to credit and debit cards, the limitations of card payments, arrangements with carers and the risk of being unable to manage finances. At Disability Equality Scotland we strongly recommend that cash is accepted in shops across the country to ensure disabled people can access essential items.

Disability Equality Scotland, August 2020