Average Brit goes 44 days since using cash

10 April 2020

  • A fifth go two months or more without coins or notes while half say they’ll use cash less in future
  • Nationwide members made 78.5 million contactless payments between 23 March and 31 May
  • Lockdown forces 27% to use mobile payments and 25% online or mobile banking for first time
  • 44% of Brits worried about using cash with nearly two thirds decreasing usage since lockdown
  • One in five admit to ‘money laundering’ as they clean their cash in the sink or washing machine

Brits have gone an average of 44 days without using cash as research reveals the nation has turned to contactless in droves during lockdown.

Customer data from Nationwide Building Society backs up the findings of the poll, showing that tap-and-pay transactions have increased by 44 per cent since the week of March 23, when the UK was asked to stay at home.

Nationwide’s research1, which polled more than 2,000 people, also shows that more than a quarter (27%) have gone two months or more without using notes and coins to pay for goods and services. For some, it’s even longer as nearly a third (32%) admit they don’t remember what they last bought with cash.

The Society’s customer data shows the scale of this change. Nationwide’s members made 78.5 million contactless payments2 between 23 March and 31 May, totalling nearly £957 million. Week-by-week analysis highlights an increase in the number of transactions and spend as the nation moved further into lockdown. There were 7.15 million contactless payments (totalling £77.27m) made in week commencing 23 March compared to 10.31 million (totalling £128.13 million) made during the week of 25 May with figures likely to increase further as the UK lockdown restrictions ease further and shops begin to re-open.

Date – week commencing

Total - contactless payments2

Total - amount spent

23 March

7.15 million

£77.27 million

30 March

6.57 million (-8.11%)

£75.90 million

6 April

6.80 million (+3.50%)

£83.28 million

13 April

6.76 million (-0.59%)

£83.02 million

20 April

7.42 million (+9.76%)

£91.94 million

27 April

7.51 million (+1.21%)

£94.20 million

4 May

8.06 million (+7.32%)

£100.96 million

11 May

8.51 million (+5.58%)

£105.48 million

18 May

9.40 million (+10.46%)

£116.79 million

25 May

10.31 million (+9.68%)

£128.13 million

* Week by week percentage change in number of contactless payments in brackets.

There were some significant regional3 differences in the amount of contactless payments made by Nationwide members over the same period (23 March to 31 May). While the South East had the most contactless payments with 14.48 million made by the Society’s members, compared to just 7.39 million in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Despite six in ten (62%) people admitting to using cash less often since lockdown, this trend could outlast the outbreak. According to Nationwide’s research, half (50%) of respondents say they will use cash less in future. More than a third (35%) of this group say this is because they are worried about using cash as a result of Covid-19, while 61 per cent have started using other methods to make payments. More than a quarter (27%) are committed to doing more shopping online in the future.

When it comes to gender, some 68 per cent of women have reduced their use of cash since lockdown, compared to 56 per cent of men. When looking at age demographics, three quarters (75%) of those aged 55 and over have decreased cash usage compared to just 48 per cent of people aged 16-24 and 57 per cent of those aged between 35 and 44. Regionally, seven in ten (70%) residents in the South West admit their cash usage has decreased compared to just over half (51%) in London.

Payments aside, a third of Brits (33%) have used lockdown to try out mobile and online banking for the first time, while a quarter (25%) say this period had made them more comfortable with making mobile payments. Two in five (40%) people in London and the North East admitted lockdown have used mobile or online banking for the first time compared to just one in five (20%) in the East and a quarter (25%) in the South East.4

The research also shows one in five people (20%) have turned to ‘money laundering’ – cleaning their cash due to concerns around Covid-19. More than half (58%) have used anti-bacterial wipes, in excess of a third (35%) have done so in the sink with soap and water, while more than one in five (23%) have put their cash in the washing machine.

Mark Nalder, Nationwide’s Head of Payments, said: “As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, it is evident the pandemic could have a lasting impact on how people pay for things. Far from heralding the death of cash, a shift towards mobile payments and online and mobile banking will help people keep track of their spending and better manage their money. Although we don’t expect cash to return to pre Covid-19 levels, it is highly likely cash usage will increase post-lockdown as the high street begins to reopen, even if that means the use of card payments – via contactless, phone or another device – rise in tandem. Regardless of what happens in future, we will continue to provide our members with a choice of ways to pay that meets their needs and circumstances, whether that’s free access to cash via our ATMs inside and outside our branches or new innovative ways to pay and transact.”

Notes to Editors

1Research conducted online by Censuswide between 22 and 26 May 2020 with a nationally representative poll of 2,042.

2Figures include payments made by contactless card or by mobile device (e.g. Apple Pay, Android Pay).

3Payments (by contactless card or by mobile device) made by region between 23 March and 31 May.


Total number of contactless payments

Total amount spent

Average spend per contactless transaction

South East

14.48 million

£176.62 million



14.16 million

£176.41 million



12.42 million

£151.57 million



11.10 million

£125.63 million


Wales & South West

10.45 million

£128.79 million


East Anglia

8.48 million

£105.74 million


Scotland & Northern Ireland

7.39 million

£91.87 million


4 Research conducted online by Censuswide between 20 and 21 April 2020 with a nationally representative poll of 2,021.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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