Plastic Fantastic: Consumerism in a Cashless Society

By: Andrew Regan

The drinks have been ordered, the jackets are off and the table has been occupied. All that remains is to pay the bar, and then settle down with friends and chill for the night. Except one thing; the bar can't be paid as that all important trip to the ATM was overlooked. Cue the walk of shame back to the table to ask to borrow some money.

This is increasingly becoming less of a problem, however, as more and more bars accept plastic as payment. Coupled with the fact that more and more people choose to do their shopping online, or use "chip and pin" when they do use a normal shop, it could be argued that cash is almost becoming obsolete.

Some major retailers have even suggested recently that they would consider introducing "cashless tills". And with pre-paid credit cards becoming an increasingly common feature of UK consumer culture, the future of notes and coins does indeed look bleak. But there are still issues that are worth considering when using cards as a primary method of payment, as more and more people are discovering these days.

For example, when checking in to a hotel, they will often ask for a credit card to "secure" payment for the room. No payment is taken from the card, but what some people don't realise is that a segment of the balance of the card is 'put-aside' by the hotel as security; effectively meaning that the available balance has been reduced for the duration of their stay. So, if the customer then decides to go out shopping, or out for a meal, there is a danger the card could be rejected, as they hadn't factored in this "secured" section of the card.

So, to avoid having to do kitchen duties in the local bistro, it's maybe worth considering obtaining a second credit card, just for those occasions where, for one reason or another, the main credit card is rejected.

Of course, another reason why a credit card may be rejected is simply because not enough care has been taken in seeking out the best deal and the card has been "maxed out". With this in mind, it may be worth considering a new credit card, with many offering 0% interest on balance transfers for up to 12 months. So, by doing very little, a lot of money can be saved.

For the time-being at least, cash still plays a part in UK consumer culture. But with consumer culture gradually moving towards plastic ubiquity, there may be a day where notes and coins will be obsolete. So, embrace it, and find the best deals now.

Money Management
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