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Should my business go cashless to prevent the spread of Covid-19?

Guest writer Rob Binns talks about why UK businesses might consider going cashless to help stop the coronavirus pandemic – and to safeguard their businesses for the future

If the TV didn’t tell you, the newspaper would have done. But, even if you’d stopped reading the dread-soaked headlines or tuning into the alarming radio broadcasts, the dwindling footfall will soon tell you everything you need to know.

Covid-19 is here, and it means business. But what does that mean, exactly, for your business?

With the government still refraining from unleashing its strictest measures, businesses across London and beyond are continuing to persevere. For now, we’re left with that central, golden nugget of advice – keep washing your hands. 

So, as Covid-19 tightens its grip on the UK, how can British businesses respond? How can you proof your cafe, bar, restaurant, retail store, or pub against the present pandemic, while also proofing it for the uncertainties of the future?

By going cashless, that’s how. But is transitioning away from cash payments right for your business? 

Let’s find out.


Did you know?

The limit for contactless spending is set to rise to £45 at beginning of April 2020.


Is running a cashless business recommended for preventing the spread of coronavirus?

Yes. Yes, it is. Well, according to the World Health Organisation, anyway, which has allegedly already singled out the role of banknotes in spreading bacteria and viruses. The Bank of England agrees, as do China and Korea, which have both been disinfecting their notes since last month. 

It makes sense. Covid-19 can stick to surfaces for hours, even days. So, as a well-handled and widely distributed commodity, cash is up there with doorknobs and public transport as being hotspots for the coronavirus. As one doctor puts it,

“It’s a well-known fact that money holds a whole host of germs, and so it’s more important than ever right now to try and curb your habit of using physical money, whether it’s notes or coins.”

Dr. Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical adviser at Prescription Doctor

Is it that simple, though? Perhaps not. WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib later went on record denying the organisation had ever suggested a link between cash and the spread of Covid-19. What gives?

“WHO did NOT say banknotes would transmit COVID-19, nor have we issued any warnings or statements about this. We were asked if we thought banknotes could transmit COVID-19 and we said you should wash your hands after handling money, especially if handling or eating food.”

Fadela Chaib, WHO Spokesperson

So using cash in cafes or restaurants should be fine, then, right? When it comes to paying for the food, at least; you’ll just need to wash your hands before you put it in your mouth.

Regardless of which side of the argument you choose to believe, many small UK businesses have already made their choice. Particularly in the capital, more and more businesses are closing their doors to cash.

Whether you do it because of the threat of a deadly virus or not, the chances are that, sooner or later, your business will be going cashless. Why?

Because the UK is.

Debit cards overtook cash as the UK’s favourite way to pay well over a year ago, and experts predict we could see the back of cash as early as 2030. Plus, the meteoric rise of mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay attest to the increasing popularity of alternative payment methods. 

Basically, if you’re not taking cashless payments now, you should be. But how?


Top tips: how to become a cashless business

Going cashless may seem like a daunting proposition at first. But don’t stress – the road to accepting card payments is probably quicker, speedier, and paved with fewer pitfalls than you might think. Here are our top tips for going cashless in a mad world – and for letting your customers know.

Get a mobile card reader

You can’t become a fully-fledged cashless business without the technology to process credit cards. So how does it work?

Well, there are many ways to accept card payments. You could apply for a dedicated merchant account with a bank or independent company, for one – though the application process is long, and understanding the fees can be draining.

What we recommend is a mobile card reader. You can apply easily online with a provider such as SumUp, Square, or PayPal Here, and you’ll receive your card reader in the mail. We recommend iZettle, which boasts low fees and lightning-fast payment processing.

Mobile card readers are small enough to fit in your pocket, simple to use, and allow you to accept credit cards, debit cards, and mobile wallets – from wherever in the world you’re selling.

Card readers are also perfect for small businesses. There are no monthly fees, no PCI compliance requirements to worry about, and just a single, flat cost per transaction. Some providers won’t run a credit check, either.

Take to social media

Now you’ve got the technology in place, it’s time to get the word out – in the right place. And where better to start than with good, old-fashioned social media?

Begin by broadcasting news of your business’ blossoming cashless status on whichever social channels you use to connect with customers. Twitter is a good one:

Corona-virus-cashless-twitter

UK businesses are also taking to Instagram to declare the news, with Costa Coffee being the latest notable addition to the cashless canon:

Corona-virus-cashless-instagram

Send out a newsletter

If you haven’t come around to social media yet, there are still plenty of ways to let your customers know you’re going cashless. MailChimp is a great way of creating and sending out emails en masse, and you’ll go ape for its drag-and-drop functionality.

Phase out cash

Anyone who’s ever climbed into a hot bath knows that we humans need a little time to acclimatise to change.

That’s why, before making any changes to how you accept payment, it’s important to forewarn your customers. Have a week where you ‘phase out’ cash. It’ll help your patrons get used to it, while helping you and your staff adapt to the new situation. 

Put up a sign

Simple… but effective. And self-explanatory too, as it turns out – put up a sign in the front window of your shop, telling people you’ll no longer be accepting cash payments. 

It doesn’t have to be professionally done, either; a paper sign in your own handwriting will tell everyone what they need to know, and may even help them connect with your brand.

Shop-sign-cashless

Cashless for coronavirus: it’s your decision

Covid-19. No-one wants to think about it, or about its consequences for the world. 

But the truth is, it’s set to put the squeeze on UK businesses for the next few weeks, if not months. And, whichever side you take regarding cash’s role in the virus’ spread, you’ll need to prepare for a cashless society – whether that’s by 2020, or 2030.

That said, you won’t have to go completely cashless just yet. But, when card readers have never been easier to apply for, simpler to use, or cheaper to maintain, accepting card payments isn’t just smart for public health – it’s a business decision that makes a lot of sense.

And, whatever you do, make sure you’re using all the tools at your disposal to keep your customers in the loop. Put health, safety, and your staff and patrons first. And when the world does beat coronavirus? You’ll have a more resilient, versatile, and future-proof business to wow it with.

Author: Rob Binns

Rob is currently writing for Startups as a guest writer to help cover the coronavirus pandemic of March 2020. However, his involvement with the UK’s no.1 online resource for starting a business goes way back. 

He volunteered handing out trophies at Startups’ eponymous 2018 awards, and will be penning bios for the century of innovative companies picked to feature in the upcoming Startups 100. He’s also penned a 10,000 word how-to guide for starting a business, and empowered young companies to scale with content about blockchain, software, and SME finance. Away from his desk, Rob enjoys getting out in the field to connect with UK entrepreneurs – whether it’s rubbing shoulders with Joseph Valente at The Business Show, or playing beer pong with Cornish beer barons Jubel (and winning!).

Further away from his desk, he can be found training for postponed running events, reading existentialist literature, and social distancing.

Rob Binns
Rob Binns

Senior Writer

Rob has been writing for Startups since the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Hailing from Wellington, New Zealand, Rob brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of payments, finance, cryptocurrency, and business loans.