The Big Issue Trials Contactless Payments | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

The Big Issue Trials Contactless Payments

The Big Issue began trialling contactless payments on 3rd December in Birmingham, as well as London, Bath, Bristol and Nottingham. The trial is in partnership with card reader company iZettle

The Big Issue is an award-winning magazine which aims to help those in poverty by creating an employment opportunity. Sellers buy copies for £1.25 each and sell them on for £2.50, so each vendor becomes a microentrepreneur. The Big Issue has sold over 200 million copies since its launch in 1991, and there are around 1,500 vendors and over 83,000 copies of the magazine are circulated across the UK each week.

As we move further towards a cashless society, people have less change to hand for homeless people and charities or organisations. Some Big Issue sellers have reported that fewer people carrying cash has had a negative knock-on effect on their sales. In 2006, around 62% of transactions were cash payments, compared to around 40% in 2017. At that time, Barclays warned that charities could be losing out on up to £80 million each year if they only accept cash donations. The decline is predicted to continue, dropping to around 21% by 2026.

If successful, the pilot could be rolled out nationally. However, there could be complications because every seller using a card reader must have a bank account, which requires a fixed address. Running the contactless method countrywide would require a lot of involvement from The Big Issue, who would need to help individuals to open bank accounts.

Russell Blackman, managing director of The Big Issue, has said: Big issue vendors are microentrepreneurs, effectively running their own small businesses, so understandably there are many who are keen to respond to market forces and offer their customers an alternative to cash.’

‘We have long-recognised that we are operating in an increasingly cashless society.

In addition, people may be wary of handing over their cards if they are not certain the money will go directly to that vendor, though several sellers report that people have directly asked them whether there is a cashless option available. It is hoped that informing people of and advertising the new development will address any such concerns.

Theirs and iZettle’s aim is to create a more financially-inclusive society by supporting those who face poverty and a lack of opportunity.

Final year Modern Languages student. Partial to all things fashion, fitness, food and travel related. Lover of reading and podcast listening.


14th February 2019 at 7:00 am

Last Updated

13th February 2019 at 11:14 am

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Lewis Commons