Last September I made a decision to change the way I handle my money. My bank accounts had become unruly and complicated so I began by closing every account I owned and started again.
The game begins
One debit card and one credit card.
I threw away my old wallet and was happily gifted a new one by my other half. This one didn't have a pocket for coins which re-enforced my decision to go cash free. "Who uses cash in 2013" I thought to myself as I waltzed through the self-service checkout at M&S, tapping my contactless card against the reader and leaving as the voice booms "CARD ACCEPTED!" behind me.
Life without cash was great. No more counting coins at the till, no more collecting bronze little pennies and definitely no more money raining out of my jeans when I peeled them off at night.
How I live
I should explain at this point that I don't actually use my debit card unless I have to. Everything I buy on a day-to-day basis is bought using my credit card. Why? When I use my credit card I get points, and at the end of the month I pay off the card in full. I don't see the point in using my debit card when I am rewarded for using credit. So that's that. Let's continue.
Unfortunately my cash free life came back to bite me the evening of my old housemates birthday. Leaving the bar after birthday drinks I found myself in desperate need of something greasy.
I wandered into the nearest takeaway on my route home and ordered a delicious portion of cheesy chips. Pulling out my card did not go down well.
"Sorry, we don't take card".
I told them not to bother and decided to set myself a mission. My mission was to find some takeway food on the mile walk home (through the centre of town) using only my credit card.
I tried to source food at 5 different food places on my route, all of which turned me away at the sight of my card. I was often pointed to the nearest cash machine, which would be costly with a credit card.
Reaching the 100 metre mark to my flat I accepted my fate and wandered into Subway and placed my order.
"Sorry mate, it's cash only tonight, is that okay?"
My response looked something like this.
I accepted defeat at the final takeaway between subway and my flat. I ordered a small chicken wrap and was told that they accept card as long as the order is over £5. Apparently my order was £5, but they still charge 50p to pay by card. I walked away £5.50 worse off, with the least desirable chicken wrap I've ever had.
But I didn't use cash
7 Months in review
7 Months later I find that the cash free struggle is as strong as it was back when I started this mission. I can't order ice cream without a 30p charge. I can't pick up anything at my local corner shop, because they don't take card. I can't go for drinks with my work colleauges at the local by work, because they don't take card. I can't take the bus without buying a set of 10 pre-paid journeys for a key card. I can't take a taxi without paying the minimum card amount of £10 plus their £2-3 card fee.
I will always visit a smaller local business first for things that I need, but more often than not I glance the 20 year old till as I walk through the door and quickly turn around to go to my local supermarket where I know I can pay easily and without charge.
There is no end to the number of different card machines that business owners can sign their store up to. Hell, you can even get ones that clip onto your iPhone to take payments anywhere, but they just don't seem to be taking off. I can only assume the charges on transactions are too much for the smaller businesses to absorb.
I know that my mission may sound alien to some, but I'm sticking at it. I'm convinced the day will come that we abolish physical money all together. I think its a very long way away but until then I'm going to carry on trying my hardest to forget that it even exists.