The humble cash machine celebrated its 50th birthday at the end of June. The first automated teller machine (ATM) was officially ‘opened’ by celebrity of the time, Reg Varney, star of TV sitcom ‘On The Buses’ (ask your parents!) when he withdrew £10 from the machine outside Barclays Bank, in sunny Enfield, North London.

It must have been quite a revelation at the time and meant that people could access their cash more easily, completely changing their relationship with money. Before that, you would have to physically go into a bank to withdraw money from your account each time you wanted to buy something. All well and good, but it meant that you would have to walk around with your pockets full of large amounts of cash to get you through the week. If you didn’t take out enough notes, you could potentially run out at an inopportune moment, and would have to wait for the bank to be open again. All sounds like a lot of a faff to me.


Cashless society?


It’s not surprising that the ‘hole in the wall’ became so popular, and has continued to be so. Today there are around 70,000 ATMs in the UK, and 3 million worldwide, but with the world moving more towards a cashless society, are cash machines set to go the way of many other things on on our High Street, like red telephone boxes and Woolworths? I still haven’t quite got over the loss of pick and mix from my life to be honest, but I’m getting there one Haribo at a time!

I don’t know about you, but I seem to withdraw money less and less as, like a lot of people, I tend to use contactless for most things. Whether it is cinema tickets, shopping or tube travel, one little tap and it’s all done. My mum often jokes that I’m like the Queen in that I very rarely carry cash, but I am sure even Her Majesty has got into the 21st century and has a credit card, even if she has someone else who swipes it for her.


Even beer is going contactless


As well as using cards for contactless purchases, I am also able to use it for buying things online from the comfort of my own home. You can’t do that with real money. As a Frugal Femme, I tend to pay off my bills monthly to avoid paying interest on it, but it also makes sense for me to use my card wherever possible as I collect reward points that can be used for flights. The more I spend, the closer I get to the airport!!

It seems that I am not the only one using my card more. Almost half of payments of £30 or below made last year were contactless, which shows that there is a definite shift to this way of spending since its introduction to the UK in 2007. I wonder how much of those contactless transactions were spent in the London bar that had a trial last Christmas of, wait for it, a contactless beer tap. It basically means that rather than spend time trying to catch the attention of the barman, you can do it yourself, and pour a pint and pay with a contactless card in just 60 seconds. Sounds good, right? Beer quite literally on tap. What could possibly go wrong with that idea? Cut to: The morning after when not only do you have a hangover from hell, but a bar bill to match.

Source: Telegraph. According to a payments industry trade association, debit cards ‘set to overtake cash’ as the most used payment method by 2021.


Contactless = no contact


I guess that this is the flipside of going contactless. It is exactly that – contactless, as in you have no actual direct contact with any kind of money, so it all seems kinda abstract, and even painless, until you check your credit card statement then it can get pretty painful!! Spending large amounts of money is a lot easier when you are using plastic, rather than coming face to face with a big wedge of cold hard cash. This is why it is important to regularly check your statements online or through an app to make sure you are not overspending.

For those who don’t even want the hassle of carrying a credit card, being able to pay by phone is perfect. Apple Pay can be used in shops, apps and also online for purchases, making it pretty handy all round. My main concern is, if like me, your phone battery tends to die when out and about, what happens? Can’t really present a dead phone as legal tender can you?


Cash is king


For some, cash will always be king, as it allows for much better money management, and also means that when it comes to spending you have to be more realistic as to what you can and can’t afford with the money you have. It means that rather than buying those expensive shoes on a whim with a credit card, you may have to wait for a month or two until you have enough to pay for them. It means that you would amass less debt, and probably a few less blisters too. Sometimes if you have to wait to buy something, you often realise that you actually don’t need it in your life anyway.

Personally, I don’t think I’m quite ready to go completely cashless just yet, but I am sure there will be a time when we look back nostalgically like we do with home perms and Walkmans and say, ’Remember when we used to carry cash?! Can you imagine that?!’

Let’s hope that for the guys at ATMIA sakes, that the cash machine continues for a bit longer…otherwise they’ll be beside themselves!