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This week, Visa Europe unleashed its latest promotional campaign targeting its contactless cardholders in the U.K. and asserting the inestimable virtues of cashlessness.

As explained in a Visa Europe press release, the company’s “Cashfree and Proud” campaign is all about letting British cardholders know that they can “make a Visa contactless payment with confidence and feel liberated from the need to carry cash.”

It’s ad-speak that one might expect to hear in a television commercial for toothpaste or toenail fungus spray.

No surprise. For years, purveyors of plastic money have been telling us that cash is the monetary equivalent of bad breath or athlete’s foot.

Or, social anxiety disorder, apparently. As the Visa press release explains:

The campaign, which runs in the UK from March to May, recognizes and harnesses that sense of achievement people feel when they begin to use contactless and realize that they need no longer be dependent on cash for everyday purchases. The campaign is the latest step of Visa UK’s long term strategy to make cash ‘peculiar’ by 2020.

Interesting word choice, “peculiar.”

The implication seems to be that approximately three years and nine months from now, any Briton who chooses to carry cash will be viewed as “a bit weird” — strange, outlandish, offbeat, eccentric and possibly somewhat irrational.

In short, the person that every high school sophomore is terrified of being. And that the majority of 20-somethings would like nothing better than to be. Which might explain why so many millennials choose to use cash.

Visa would rather they didn’t. With its “Cashless and Proud” campaign, the company hopes to persuade consumers to make more contactless payments, particularly now that the spending limit for contactless in the U.K. has jumped from 20 pounds to 30 pounds.

Per the Visa press release:

The campaign is focused on encouraging consumers who are light contactless users, or those who are yet to use contactless in their daily lives, reassuring them of the ease and simplicity of use. The series of ads demonstrates contactless as the new normal way to pay for everyday items as part of their daily routine; such as buying essentials from their local shop or a drink in a pub. Visa is looking to influence the breadth of contactless usage, giving cardholders the confidence to try it.

It probably is not accidental that two of the three ads show women shopping for food — not (only) because it’s a stereotype, but (also) because the new 30 pound contactless spending cap comfortably covers the average supermarket spend, which the U.K. Cards association pegs at 25 pounds.

The ad that does feature a man is set in a sort of hipster pub and shows our Cashfree and Proud protagonist chin high, carrying a couple of glasses of beer purchased with his Visa contactless card. (In their ads, the women hold a half-gallon of milk and a bunch of kale. Boring.)

The choice of setting is significant because, according to the U.K. Payments Council, 83.9 percent of purchases at pubs and clubs are made with cash — a rate exceeded only newsagents, at 84.8 percent. And while a considerably smaller proportion (43.8 percent) of food purchases are made with cash, food itself is the fourth largest spending category overall for British households, after housing, transportation, and all types of entertainment, giving it a larger value overall.

Which is to say that these are certainly two spending categories into which the card brands would love to make big inroads, in order to increase the current margin of plastic to cash, which now stands at 52 percent to 48 percent, respectively.

To Visa, the way to make those inroads is via contactless card spending. And the way to make that happen, apparently, is by making Brits feel that waving your card at a payment terminal is noble, heroic, pat-on-the-back-worthy; the equivalent of knowing how to change a flat or rescuing your granny from a burning house.

Meanwhile coin-shaming cash-using Luddites who thoughtlessly require others to make and count back change, and, well, math is hard, you know.

The press release ends with this quote from Visa U.K. Managing Director Kevin Jenkins:

Contactless payments now constitute 20 percent of all transactions, making it the new normal for payments. This campaign will encourage those consumers who are yet to discover the ease and simplicity contactless to discover their cash-free ‘pride.’

Twenty percent is the “new normal”? C’mon, now. Math isn’t that hard.

Reprinted by Permission from


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