‘Money laundering’: Fifth of people have tried cleaning cash, says survey

People have gone 44 days on average without using cash during the coronavirus crisis, a survey suggests.

Meanwhile, a fifth (20%) of people have tried “money laundering” – cleaning their cash due to concerns around Covid-19.

More than a quarter (27%) of people say they have gone for two months or more without using any notes or coins to pay for goods and services, according to Nationwide Building Society.

Nearly a third (32%) said they do not remember the last time they bought anything with cash, a survey of more than 2,000 people found.

Excluding those who could not remember, people said the last time they had used cash was 44 days earlier, on average, the survey carried out between May 22-26 found.

Those who had tried to clean their cash mainly did it by using anti-bacterial wipes, although some said they had used soap and water or even a washing machine to clean their banknotes.

The Bank of England’s polymer banknotes are said to be able to endure a spin in the wash, although many people may feel they do not want to take the risk in case something goes wrong with their cash or their washing machine.

In a small experiment in 2016, the BBC website tried putting a plastic banknote through a wash, and the note survived.

Shoppers have been encouraged by some retailers to pay by card rather than cash during the pandemic.

Nationwide said its own customer data shows the number of contactless payments has been growing during the lockdown.

Some 7.15 million contactless payments were made in the week commencing March 23, compared with 10.31 million during the week of May 25, Nationwide said.

According to Nationwide’s research, half (50%) of people say they will use cash less often in future, with some saying they have become used to other ways to pay and others planning to do more shopping online.

Nearly seven in 10 (68%) women said they have reduced their use of cash since the lockdown started, compared with 56% of men.

Three-quarters (75%) of over-55s have decreased their cash usage compared with 48% of 16 to 24-year-olds and 57% of 35 to 44-year-olds.

Mark Nalder, Nationwide’s head of payments strategy and service, said: “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 re-open, 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.”

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