Changing lives: Helping Big Issue vendors go cashless

Written by John Spiers on 21st Nov 2022

We’re relying on cash less than ever before, and the EQ Foundation – a registered charity that receives funding from EQ Investors – has joined with the Big Issue to offer contactless card readers to all its vendors.

London is now a largely cashless society and most other UK towns are fast following suit. In recent years, contactless has become king. So much so that according to the Bank of England the use of cash fell from 50 per cent of payments in 2010 to just 17 per cent by the end of that decade. Of course, Covid has accelerated this: during 2020, contactless payments rose by 12 per cent and are set to make up almost half of all UK payments by the end of 2022.

Personally, I haven’t carried any cash when walking around town for more than two years; there’s really no need for it. Unless, of course, you want to buy the Big Issue.

Currently there are about 294 active vendors of the Big Issue in London but only 46 per cent can accept contactless payments. It’s not easy trying to make ends meet by selling magazines at the best of times but if more than half of your potential customers can’t transact with you it becomes impossible. That’s why the EQ Foundation has been helping to fund an accelerator initiative to provide all Big Issue vendors with access to a card reader.

This will take a little time, as it’s not straightforward to open a bank account if you don’t have an established residential address but I’m hoping that most of the vendors will be accepting cards by the end of 2023. And whilst the process can take some time, there are spin-off benefits that make it a little easier for these folk to move back towards a self-supporting lifestyle.

So, I have two messages for anyone passing by a Big Issue vendor:

  • Don’t think that you have a valid excuse for walking by if you don’t have cash. Always ask if they can accept cards. That will help to speed up adoption.
  • Never pay and then tell them to keep the magazine. Sure, it’s a bit more advantageous for them financially but then it becomes a donation rather than a payment for services and fails to boost the vendor’s self-esteem.

You can buy a copy of the Big Issue Magazine from your local vendor or by taking out a subscription at

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