17.1 million Brits shun cash fearing COVID spread

Warning to check bank statements as millions rely on contactless and online payments during pandemic  

  • 33% of people are avoiding using bank notes and coins because of the risk of spreading the Coronavirus.
  • Over a quarter (27%) of Brits haven’t used cash at all when shopping during lockdown.
  • 8% of people used a contactless card for the first time during lockdown,
  • 27% of people are concerned that COVID could be spread by bank notes and coins.
  • A quarter of UK adults would like the limit for contactless card payments raised.

New research2 commissioned by GoCompare Money reveals that a third of UK adults are avoiding using cash because of the risk of spreading the Coronavirus. 

The research found that since the UK went into lockdown, the use of ‘tap and go’ cards and online payments have outstripped the use of bank notes and coins.  In fact, 27% of those surveyed said they have not shopped with cash at all during the pandemic.      

Since lockdown was introduced most people have opted for ways of paying for goods and services without the need to handle cash or touch card PIN-pads.  The survey found that 76% of consumers have used a contactless credit or debit card, 61% have made a PayPal payment, 17% have used a smartphone payment system and 15% have used Bacs. 

8% of people used a contactless card for the first time during lockdown, while 7% made a payment with their phone for the first time.

Only half of those surveyed said they have made debit or credit card payments requiring a PIN. A significant minority (14%) said that they no-longer carry cash, and 16% said that they would be happy to live in a cashless society.

In April, as part of the measures to halt the spread of the virus, the limit for contactless card payments was raised from £30 to £45.  However, a quarter of UK adults say would like to see the limit raised further.  Of these, 27% said they’d like the spending limit raised to £50, while 40% would like to see it more than doubled to £100 or above.  The average new limit, for those who want the maximum spend increased, was £76.53. 

While contactless payments are now the preferred way of paying for many people, the fear of fraud remains a big issue for some.  29% of those surveyed were worried about the risk of fraud in connection with contactless payments and digital wallets.    But there are simple steps people can take to protect themselves against contactless fraud:

  1. Keep your contactless card or mobile device safe when carrying it around and keep it in sight at all times when making payments, this will help guard against misuse.
  2. Use the highest level of security available on your device for smartphone payments and make sure your passcode is strong and secure and not easy to work out.
  3. Never give your friends your card to make payments – always make sure you are there for all transactions.
  4. Always ask for a receipt to ensure the transaction has gone through as expected, and for the right amount.
  5. Regularly check the transactions on your bank statements as this will help you to spot any fraudulent activity on your account, contactless or otherwise. Checking your statements will also help you keep track of your spending.
  6. Report any lost or stolen cards/devices as quickly as possible.

Lee Griffin, CEO and founder of GoCompare, commented, “In early March, there were news reports about the spread of the Coronavirus on banknotes and coins.  However, the Bank of England and the World Health Organization have stressed that cash doesn’t pose any greater risk than any other items and, repeated the advice on regular hand washing.  However, from the results of our survey, it’s clear that many people remain concerned about the potential of money to be contaminated.

“With a lot of people using contactless and online payments for the first time and millions of us relying on them, it’s more important than ever to keep on top of your finances by checking your bank and card statements.  Regularly checking though your statements will help you keep abreast of your incomings and outgoings and help you spot whether any payments have been fraudulently taken.”

For more information on contactless payments visit:


For further information please contact:

Anders Nilsson at GoCompare on 01633 654 054 

Gordon, Jason or Liz at MAW Communications on 01603 505 845

Keep up-to-date with GoCompare on Twitter; @GoCompare

Notes to editors

1On 23 July 2020, an online survey of 2,061 randomly selected Great British adults was executed by Maru/Blue. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.1%. The results have been weighted by age, gender, region and social grade to match the population, according to Census data. This is to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of Great Britain. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

According to ONS, there are 51,767,543 adults in the UK.  From the research, 33% of people are avoiding using bank notes and coins because of the risk of spreading Coronavirus. 33% of 51.7 million is 17.1 million. 


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Jason Wyer-Smith