Contactless card

Safety measures imposed by Covid-19 guidelines have resulted in a spike in cashless and digital payments in recent months, according to a new report.

Payments company Square's findings showed that fewer than one in four payments have been made by cash during the lockdown period, around half of pre-Covid levels.

The report also identified that in parallel with this trend of businesses moving away from accepting cash, consumers and businesses are increasingly using e-commerce and mobile payments. The percentage of remote payments taken by businesses surged from 2% in January to 33% in April at the height of the pandemic. As businesses reopen, they continue to process and increased portion of payments over the phone or online without the need for physical contact, albeit not at the same levels seen at the peak of lockdown.

Square found that 31% of businesses made the move to being cashless by mid-July, up from just 8% at the start of 2020. This equates to an increase of 288%, a trend which shows little sign of abating.

The food and drink sector has led the way in going cashless - 33% of businesses in this sector were cashless, a massive increase from the start of the year when only 8% were. Similar trends have been seen in other sectors, including professional services (from 7% to 29%), retail (from 8% to 24%) and healthcare and fitness (from 15% to 29%).

Felipe Chacon, economist at Square, said: "Covid has changed the way we pay. Existing trends towards digital and cashless payments...have been greatly accelerated as a result of the pandemic.

"Business owners have had to move fast, quickly adapting to new ways of getting paid. They've had to balance keeping themselves and customers safe and feel safe, alongside making every sale they can."