UK shoppers will be using “e-pounds” by 2024 as the country transitions to a cashless society and physical money is abandoned.
John Howells, head of the UK’s largest cash machine network Link, has predicted that Great Britain will be entirely cashless within a decade.
According to The Telegraph, he believes that a new digital version of the pound sterling, akin to Bitcoin, will be introduced by the country’s central banks over the next few years.
This will usher in a decade in which both physical cash and digital currency will be largely interchangeable, before cash eventually disappears, Howells continued.
“The shift will be accompanied by a massive Government education push similar to the move from shillings and pence during decimalisation in the 1970s, or the switch to digital television during the 2000s analogue switch-off.”
While the new e-pound would be entirely digital, unlike Bitcoin it would be highly regulated by the government to ensure its value remains stable.
“Cash usage has almost halved and that is not going to come back as the pandemic eventually goes away,” Howells said.
“We are on the route to a very low-cash society. One in 10 payments are made in cash now. This is down from 60 per cent a few years ago. This could soon drop to one in 20.
“Once you get to that level, shops will stop accepting physical money altogether and cash machines and branches will get thinner on the ground. My job is to make sure there is still cash in machines that can live in harmony with the new system for those who will need help making the transition.”
It comes amid news that half of Britain’s cash machines could close within the next two years as they become too expensive to run.
According to data from the Access to Cash Review, 8 million people in the UK are at risk from the rapid demise of the “fragile cash system”.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) recently revealed that nearly 10,000 free-to-use cash machines have been lost over the past two years, while only an estimated 10,000 remain.
While the majority of the country is comfortable with the shift to digital payments, these pilot schemes seek to protect those who still rely heavily on cash.
This group is largely made up of elderly and low-income citizens who may not have access to bank accounts.