Consumers show frustration with retailers who dont take credit cards

30th March 2012  

Astonishingly, in an age where credit cards and debit cards are the norm, a new survey has revealed that nearly a third of UK consumers have been faced with the unthinkable in the past year – a retailer unable or unwilling to take a credit or debit card payment.

Despite the fact that the majority of people now carry less than £20 in cash on them at any time and we all rely on simply handing over our credit cards when it’s time to pay at the checkout, there are still some businesses who cannot or will not take card payments.

With the average spend in small and medium sized shops standing at around £64, it seems almost unthinkable that this situation could happen in 2012. But it’s the retailers who are losing out. More than 16% of consumers said that they had simply walked out of a shop without buying anything at all because the retailer didn’t accept card payments.

Another 22% have been forced to go hunting for an ATM machine to get the required cash out of their accounts, while 7% have ‘put items back’ so that they would have enough cash on them to make a purchase.

Walking around money

The study, carried out by YouGov also reveals some interesting trends about the cash in people’s pockets these days. Whereas years ago it would be the norm to go to the bank and get out a wad of ‘walking around money’ to go shopping with, now only 12% of consumers carry more than £50 in their purse or wallet. Nearly two thirds (62%) carry £20 or less, while 48% are lucky if they can rustle up £15 or less in their wallet.

Compare that to the 93% of the public who carry a debit or credit card, and it’s clear that social trends for carrying plastic instead of cash are changing. More than half of those asked in the survey believed that in the future (by 2035) cash would become obsolete and everything would be paid for on credit or debit cards.

Some less honest retailers refuse to accept cards because of the ensuing and undeniable paper trial and financial records. These make it hard for them to under-declare takings, forcing them to pay the correct levels of income tax and VAT.

Credit cards help small traders compete

There’s also the socio-economic factors of accepting credit and debit card payments to consider for SMEs. Customers are more likely to make large purchases with small or local retailers if they can pay for their goods by card, rather than by cash.

This helps smaller traders to compete with their larger rivals. With the cost to the retailer of accepting a debit or credit card payment set to be capped, the argument that it ‘costs too much’ is now null and void.

Savvy consumers like paying for big ticket items (between £100 and £30,000) with their credit cards because of the protection it affords them against the merchant going out of business or ending up with faulty goods. The availability of prepaid credit cards, means that now even those who are without a job or have a poor credit history can still have a credit card.

Ultimately, consumers will vote with their feet (and their credit cards) and simply go to a retailer that does accept card payments. Or they’ll head for online shops with all the convenience of one-click payment methods. The days of the cash register on the counter may be well and truly numbered, and for businesses that don’t move with the times, the writing is on the wall.


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