The need for cash: 50% of people carry no more than €20 cash in their wallet

Published  26 July 2023
   2 min read
  • Half of 18 to 24 year-olds never carry cash
  • Purchase of the daily milk or bread and takeaway coffee are among the top reasons people need cash

One in five people in Ireland never carry any cash and of those that do, almost one-third (30pc) carry €20 or less. This is according to a new survey[1] by Royal London Ireland, one of the leading life insurance and pensions companies in Ireland. Furthermore, men are more likely than women to never carry cash (24pc of men versus 16pc of women). Of those who do carry cash however, men tend to carry higher amounts on them than women.

The Royal London Ireland survey, which examined the use of cash by people in Ireland, found that the top five reasons people needed cash regularly was to pay for small daily grocery items such as milk and bread (58pc), to pay service providers who prefer cash (38pc), to buy lunch or take-away coffee or tea (34pc), to give tips (32pc), and to donate to charity (27pc).

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • Almost one in five people (19pc) carry more than €100 regularly.
  • People in Leinster appear to be the least likely to carry cash. One in four people in Dublin (25pc), and almost a third of people in the rest of Leinster (28pc) say they never carry cash. By contrast, only one in ten (10pc) of those living in Ulster and Connacht never carry cash.
  • 50pc of people aged 18-24 said they never carry cash, while just 10pc of people aged 55 or older said the same.

Commenting on the survey findings, Barry McCutcheon, Proposition Lead at Royal London Ireland said:

“We’ve seen an increase in cashless payments in Ireland in recent years[2], so the numbers of people who carry very little cash, or any at all, is unsurprising. Despite the increasingly digital nature of Irish banking and payment systems in recent years, we can see from the survey findings that cash still plays an important role in Ireland’s society and economy, with many people relying on it when going about their day-to-day routines. This balances with a European Central Bank survey in 2022 which showed that the majority (54pc) of Irish consumers’ in-store transactions were in cash[3].

"Our survey gives weight to the assertion that the younger you are, the less likely you are to carry cash. Findings from the survey revealed that half (5opc) of those aged between 18 and 24 say they never carry cash compared to only one in ten (10pc) people aged 55 or over”.

The Need for Cash

Barry observed,

“It’s clear that there is a need for cash, with 80pc of people surveyed carrying some amount daily. The survey sheds some light on just why people carry cash and we found that the top three reasons were: to pay for small daily grocery items such as milk or bread (58pc), to pay service providers who prefer cash (38pc), and to buy take-away lunch, coffee or teas (34pc). It would appear that pocket money in the form of cash hasn’t gone out of fashion either – more than a quarter of people (27pc) between the ages of 35 and 54, the age cohort likely to have children, carry cash for this reason”.

Barry concluded:

“In the Department of Finance’s published Retail Banking Review[4], a recommendation was made for legislation to be introduced to safeguard the reasonable access to cash. It is clear from our research that for many, there are times when only cash will do.

“Whether you are someone who prefers using cash or not, tracking and managing your finances is important when it comes planning your financial future.  If you are looking for advice about financial planning, a Financial Broker can help you assess your current situation and put a personalised plan in place that meets your individual needs and circumstances.”


[1] Of 1,000 Irish adults nationwide carried out by IReach

[2] As per the latest Payment Monitors Report from the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland, which was published on 29/6/2023, and release in relation to same.

 [3] As per ECB study on the Payment Attitudes of Consumers in the Euro Area, published in December 2022.

[4] See Retail Banking Review, published November 2022.