Online payments: cleaner and more cost-efficient than cash?

Research released earlier this month by MasterCard and the University of Oxford has shown that, despite believing that handling cash is as unhygienic and dirty as public transport hand rails, less than 20% of us wash our hands after holding it.


Money is one of the dirtiest things we touch on a regular basis.

Research released earlier this month by MasterCard and the University of Oxford has shown that, despite believing that handling cash is as unhygienic and dirty as public transport hand rails, less than 20% of us wash our hands after holding it. This follows research last year which found that the average European bank note contains 26,000 bacterial colonies, with UK notes among the dirtiest.

This study follows the announcement of a UK move to more hygienic plastic bank notes. However, even these plastic notes would need to be cleaned and if most of us are failing to wash our hands after handling money – what are the chances we’ll bother washing the notes themselves?

Alternatives payment methods to "filthy lucre"

Perhaps the way forward is to move away from physical currency? While the Mastercard study suggests the answer might be contactless payments this isn't the answer for all businesses. And with the world moving increasingly towards online and mobile payments,

Cash transactions worldwide rose just 1.75% between 2008 and 2012, to $11.6 trillion. Meanwhile, non traditional payment methods (including online payments like Direct Debit) rose almost 14% to $6.4 trillion.

The benefits of online payments

Offering online payments not only helps you to avoid germ-ridden cash but it also has three other important benefits:

  1. Increased sales. Your customers can sign up or make their purchase there and then – rather than having to visit you in person or deal with invoices. What’s more – customers can sign up or make purchases 24 hours a day without you needing to do anything.

  2. Reduced admin. Taking payments by cash (or cheque) can be a huge administrative burden. Even if all your customers pay on time, you still need to send out invoices, wait for and then reconcile any payments and if they don’t you’ll need to spend time chasing any late payments.

  3. Reduced late payments. With online payment methods your customers set up their payments there and then. This means no more chasing late payments – saving you time and helping to improve your cashflow.

If you'd like to find out more about the advantages of Direct Debit over cash, check out our comparison of these two payment methods.

‹ View all tips

Latest features

Security vs. convenience in the payment experience: What matters most to online shoppers?

We surveyed 4,000 customers across the UK, France, Germany and Spain about their attitudes to security and convenience when shopping online. Get all the insights here.

The new CFO: How 4 CFOs have seen their roles evolve

Hear from the CFOs at GoCardless, SideTrade, The FD Centre and Wolffepack as they discuss how the role has evolved – with insight into the challenges and opportunities they face in a changing financial landscape.

How to scale a fintech: Strategic advice from industry leaders

Learn from the leaders of Monzo, TransferWise, Funding Circle and more, with over 30 pieces of wisdom for scaling your fintech. Get your free copy now.

View all


Reference guides

View all