Cash Circulation – the Most Challenging Aspect for the Elderly in a Post Covid World

Welcome to the fourth and final post in our series on digital exclusion. In this post, Art Stewart, Global Head of Sales & Marketing at IDEX Biometrics, discusses cash circulation being the most challenging aspect for the elderly in a post Covid world.

Research indicates that vulnerable members of society, especially the elderly who have remained unbanked or those without smartphones or unaccustomed with online transactions are reliant on cash which could become a risk.

The switch to contactless

Just how easy it is to catch Covid-19 from a dollar bill is still controversial, but following government warnings, many people have switched to contactless cards (if they could get them), mobile apps or online shopping – but fewer elderly people are accustomed to these technologies.

While about 50% of Americans regularly make online payments, that figure falls to just 32% in the over-sixties. In fact, over a quarter of the over-65s do not regularly use the internet, period, and that doubles in the over-75s. Surprisingly perhaps, those who are disabled use it even less than those who are relatively fit and active.

Data from the American Bankers Association also shows that although older people usually own more cards, they use them less (mainly because they shop less online). They also shop around less frequently for new ones so they are more likely to have an older card that lacks touch-free capability.

A survey conducted by found that the over sixties are significantly more likely to rely on cash for small value purchases compared to younger people, more than half of whom still use their card for a purchase under $5.

The elderly are also more likely to reach for a debit rather than credit card. That exposes them to higher risks from fraud because credit cards provide more protections. Sadly, thieves know that the elderly and the disabled are easier to exploit and defraud and less likely to report incidents to the police. Often the thief is known to the victim and tricked into revealing their PIN by an offer to fetch cash from an ATM.

How biometric identification helps the elderly?

Following years of development, biometric identification can be installed into plastic payment cards in the form of a fingerprint scanner. Without the legitimate owner’s finger on the scanner, the card will not work. Cards with biometric identification also have touch-free capability, eliminating the need to use a PIN – something that can be a struggle to use for those with visual or memory impairments. Together these two features eliminate most possibilities for fraud and obviate the need for banks to place low spending caps on contactless payments.

Because a safe tap-and-go card is so quick and easy to use, cards with biometric identification will also help to encourage people out of the habit of using health-threatening cash for those small everyday purchases.

An arguably greater bonus is that thieves and muggers will have far less incentive to target the elderly and disabled. They will no longer be carrying cash nor cards that enable fraud.

The previous post in our series on digital exclusion looked at how biometric technology can support vulnerable members of society.