Wallets and purses falling out of favour as cash gives way to card, research shows

London – 24 October, 2016 – Wallets and purses are increasingly becoming obsolete as people are carrying less cash than ever, new research reveals today.

On average, Britons now have less than £5 in cash on them, the study by Mastercard found.

MasterCard | Payments Photo by Bryan Derballa

MasterCard | Photo by Bryan Derballa

Two in five people (43%) say they keep less hard cash in their pockets than they did two years ago.

Meanwhile, the number of transactions being made with cards has leapt by more than 9% each year since 2013, totalling 17 billion transactions in the UK last year[1].

At the same time, one in 10 people have given up carrying a wallet or purse and instead keep just a credit or debit card in their pocket. A further quarter (24%) are keen to stop hauling a wallet or purse around with them.

The trend is hardly surprising as people’s wallets and purses are bursting with 44 items on average other than cash – around half of which are either out of date or go unused.

In fact, one in five people go a year of more without emptying out the junk from their wallets, hoarding everything from old receipts and expired coupons to out-of-date cards and travel tickets. Men were found to be the worst hoarders overall, with a quarter admitting to waiting a year or more before having a wallet clear-out, compared to one in 10 women.

Overall, half of Britons (47%) typically have less than a fiver on them. The most common amount was found to be between £1 and £5, with a third of people (33%) falling into this category. This rises to 44% among those aged 25 to 34.

More than one in 10 (14%) of people have no cash at all in their wallet or purse.

The second most common amount is £6 to £10, accounting for 16% of Britons, the study shows. Only 7% of people keep more than £50 in cash on them.

By comparison, on average, people have two debit or credit cards in their purse or wallet.

“We’re in the midst of a period of unprecedented change for payments,” said Mark Barnett, President of Mastercard UK and Ireland. “Cash usage is being buffeted by the dual forces of increased online expenditure and consumers embracing the convenience, speed and security of card and digital payments.

“This trend is also reducing the amount of cash businesses need to handle and process, which is time consuming and an often overlooked cost.”

One in five people (20%) believe wallets will become obsolete in the near future due to the rise of new payment technologies such as contactless cards and contactless mobile devices. This rises to a third (32%) among those aged 25-34.

Men are less likely to carry large amounts of cash on them, with 54% keeping less than £5 in their wallet, compared to 39% of women.

Around one in five (17%) said they carry less cash than they did a year or two ago due to greater use of contactless payments, while a further 17% said it was due to the comparative ease of using card. Another one in 10 said online payments had diminished the need for cash.

The survey of 2,000 Britons also found that people carry more loyalty cards in their wallets and purses than any other item – between three and four on average. One in five Britons carry five or more.

A quarter (24%) of people said they have expired money off coupons in their wallet or purse, and nearly one in five (17%) hoard old handwritten notes they don’t need.

Another quarter of Britons (23%) keep membership, certification and identity cards that have expired or that they no longer use, the poll found. More than one in 10 (14%) confess to holding on to business cards of people they’ve never contacted.

Bulging with 44 items – the anatomy of the typical British wallet/purse:

  • 2 x debit/credit cards
  • Less than £5 in cash
  • 1 x driving licence
  • 2 x membership cards
  • 2 x entry/pass cards
  • 2 x travel cards/tickets
  • 4 x loyalty cards
  • 3 x money off coupons
  • 3 x business cards
  • 2 x photographs
  • 2 x keepsakes/lucky charms
  • 4 x old receipts
  • 2 x expired coupons
  • 2 x useless handwritten notes
  • 3 x expired or unused membership/certification/identity cards
  • 6 x pieces of unneeded foreign currency
  • 2 x business cards of people never contacted
  • 2 x expired travel tickets

– ENDS –


Table: How much cash do you have in your wallet/purse?

Amount Total Male Female 16-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
£0 14% 19% 9% 16% 18% 14% 12% 10% 12%
£1-5 33% 35% 30% 36% 44% 36% 34% 27% 21%
£6-10 16% 12% 19% 21% 11% 20% 14% 16% 15%
£11-15 3% 2% 5% 5% 2% 3% 4% 5% 3%
£16-20 10% 8% 11% 5% 7% 10% 12% 14% 10%
£21-25 3% 3% 4% 2% 2% 2% 2% 6% 5%
£26-50 14% 12% 16% 13% 12% 10% 13% 11% 22%
£51+ 7% 9% 6% 2% 4% 6% 9% 12% 12%

 About Mastercard

Mastercard (NYSE: MA), www.mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry.  We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories.  Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, travelling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.  Follow us on Twitter @MastercardUKBiz, join the discussion on the Beyond the Transaction Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

Mastercard Communications Contacts

Murray Wardrop, Ketchum

M: 07590 740374

T: 0203 7556526

E: murray.wardrop@ketchum.com

[1] The UK Cards Association