Nearly half of Scots have recently been somewhere where cash has not been accepted or has been discouraged, according to new research.
It has led to concerns that people relying on cash to budget for essentials during the cost of living crisis are being blocked from paying for goods.
Car parks, cafes, restaurants and public transport are among the places where cash acceptance has been particularly limited, findings from ATM network Link indicate.
Consumer group Which? highlighted the need to avoid “sleepwalking” into a situation where cash users are excluded from certain services.
Scotland has the highest percentage loss of bank branches across the UK, with 53% closing since 2015, a report from the Scottish Affairs Committee earlier this year found.
While many people now have access to online banking, it is estimated around 500,000 Scots rely on cash due to difficulties adapting to digital payments or for budgeting purposes.
The UK Government said it was for individual businesses to choose whether or not they accept cash.
The Post Office recently confirmed its branches handled the highest volume of cash in August for five years due to the cost of living crisis and more people relying on cash for budgeting.
Research published by Which? earlier this year found more than half (54%) of people still regularly use cash, mostly alongside other payment methods.
Of those who regularly use cash, just over half (52%) told Which? that cash helps them keep track of their spending.
Nearly half (49%) of people affected said that being unable or being discouraged to pay in cash was inconvenient, Link found.
In Scotland, 42% of people had experienced a lack of cash acceptance.
Link has been regularly carrying out research to understand people’s attitudes towards cash use.
It found one in eight (13%) people have found it more difficult to keep track of their finances due to using card payments in shops instead of cash and 16% are keeping cash at home in case of emergencies.
Graham Mott, director of strategy at Link, said: “If a shop, pub or restaurant no longer accepts cash or prefers customers to pay using card or mobile payments, we can now see that almost half of people find this problematic while the other half have no concerns.
“We know some people simply prefer using cash, but there are millions who can’t do digital payments, so being unable to be pay in notes and coins is still frustrating for some.”
More than 2,100 people were surveyed in early November and asked about their experiences with cash acceptance in the previous eight weeks.
Financial inclusion campaigner Lord Holmes, who is vice chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on FinTech, said: “It’s understandable that people may be frustrated in locations like car parks, but the worry of creeping non-acceptance is what happens if councils or vital services like pharmacies or supermarkets stop accepting cash.
“At the moment, it’s still not feasible to expect everyone to pay for things on their phone or via contactless.”
The Government has said it will legislate to protect the future of cash.
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “It’s worrying to see so many people prevented or discouraged from using cash when our research has found millions still rely on it to pay for everyday essentials or to manage their finances amid a cost of living crisis.
“Long-awaited legislation to protect cash must include guarantees of a minimum level of free access so that millions of people affected by bank branches closing and cash machines charging fees are not forced to pay to withdraw their own money.
“In order to avoid sleepwalking into a situation where cash users are excluded from certain services, the Financial Conduct Authority should play a proactive role in monitoring cash acceptance and taking action where appropriate.”