Would you dare to go cash free? These Suffolk businesses have made the change

Phil Pethybridge of Neon Street. Picture: Ellen Tunstall

Phil Pethybridge of Neon Street. Picture: Ellen Tunstall - Credit: Archant

This summer, a Suffolk pub became the first in the UK to go cashless. But the Boot in Freston, isn’t the first company in the county to do away with cash - several other local business people are finding that more and more, its card - not cash - that’s king.

Landlord of the Boot pub Mike Keen, who says his venue in Freston near Ipswich, is the first in Brit

Landlord of the Boot pub Mike Keen, who says his venue in Freston near Ipswich, is the first in Britain to go cashless. Picture: Sam Russell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

When the Cyclist Cafe opened last November in Sudbury, it did so as a card-only venue.

Manager Steven Bird explained: “Despite the fee associated with transactions, its more efficient and makes economic sense.

“There had also been a couple of robberies of the corner shop next door, which got me quite worried, and we didn’t want cash on the premises.”

“And banks don’t like handling people’s change.”

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But the cash-free rule wasn’t popular with everyone. “Some of Sudbury’s older residents couldn’t get their head around it. So now we do have a little cash box we can use when necessary.”

Erin Sas introduced a cashless payment system at her Suffolk dance school two years ago, in order to “freeze prices.” “I told everyone that bank fees for cash and cheques would mean my fees would need to go up. And also admin time - especially travel to the next town regularly to cash the money in - was too much.”

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Ms Sas says she would never go back to taking cash. “Accounting is easier, records of payments are easier - I realised that so many people had dodged their term fees! Any query on what’s been paid is easily traceable for me and for them.

“I also feel safer not having cash on me when closing up halls late at night on my own.”

Phil Pethybridge travels regularly across Europe with his company, Neon Street Luxury Tour Vans, and believes there’s now an increasing expectation to take card, although this varies from country to country. “We did an event in Sweden and 80% of sales were card, Poland 10% and Slovenia 0%. In the UK, we find its about 50% at events.

“If you take enough card payments, it makes sense to use card-only payments.”

Mr Pethybridge’s company, which is based in Bury Saint Edmunds, has hired vans to stars including 10cc, Louise Redknapp, Newton Faulkner, The Three Degrees and the Gypsy Kings.

“We help bands take card payments on tour too. For them it’s essential, as venues don’t always have cash machines, or they charge. Cashback is not available like it used to be, and you want to be able to sell your product in the moment.”

Neon Street is charged on average 0.6% card fees per transaction, and a monthly hire fee for the terminals, which Mr Pethybridge says is “a lot cheaper” than handling cash in and out of the bank. “Card fees are so low now that we don’t set a minimum spend, as that can also be seen as a barrier,” he said.

But going cashless freezes out nearly 2 million people in the UK who, according to the Financial Inclusion Commission, don’t have bank accounts.

Not everybody thinks the benefits of going card-only outweigh the downsides.

“This is exactly what the government want - to stop people trading in cash, which means people have no sense of money,” said James Curson, managing director of Curson Carpentry in Raydon.

“Small businesses thrive on cash, along with tradesmen. “Its so every penny can be taxed and this country is becoming a joke in terms of economy, house prices, fuel prices, let alone tax that we as business people have to pay.”

Emma Graham, an illustrator based in Suffolk, takes payment for the art classes she holds in Holbrook in cash and cheques. “Although I take bank transfers, the cost of a card machine for the two or three fairs I do each year are not worth it,” she explained. “My art students are pretty much all retired so, I get paid the ‘old fashioned’ way.”

Photographer Penny Morgan says she has found with her own business that people are paying by bank transfer “far more often.”

“I think it is the way forward, however can understand certain businesses who traditionally deal in cash feeling hesitant to go that far, to maintain a variety of payment options for their clients,” she said. “How many of us have stood in a bank queue in the past while the cashier is physically counting cash that’s being paid in?

“Everything is being more automated to save time, costs and be more convenient.”

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