Cashless parking catches drivers out. Here’s why it’s costing millions

cashless parking
Should you be penalised if you can’t do this and only have cash? (Picture iStock/MartinPrescott)

Drivers who’ve been fined for not being able to pay at cashless parking meters are being urged to contest the penalty. New research conducted by the Mail On Sunday has found that around a third of parking meters are now cash free.

That means drivers must pay with a debit or credit card or via a telephone hotline or mobile phone app. But what happens if you can’t?

Drivers penalised for not going cashless

The Mail On Sunday claims that around three million motorists were fined because they had no means to pay at cashless parking meters. That’s around a third of the parking fines issued. Campaigners such as Barrie Segal from AppealNow say drivers who have been fined like this should appeal.

He said: “Anyone fined because they only had cash on them should consider appealing. Be willing to take the case all the way to an independent adjudicator.”

We explain how to appeal a parking ticket here. If you do, there’s a high chance of success. According to ombudsman Parking On Private Land Appeals (POPLA), 41 per cent of the appeals it received found in favour of the driver.

How does cashless parking work?

Instead of putting coins into a meter, you pay for parking with a debit or credit card or use a mobile phone app. For some car parking, you ring a telephone hotline although this can be time consuming.

Apps such as PayByPhone, RingGo and ParkMobile are very straightforward. You download the app and input your payment and car details. Then it’s simply a case of opening the app when you want to park, inputting the location number displayed on a sign and clicking pay. It’s easy, as long as you’re comfortable with the technology.

cashless parking
Is this what happens if you can only pay for parking with cash? (Picture iStock/StephM2506)

What’s the downside?

Not every driver is comfortable with paying for things using a mobile phone app. Some people – as is their right – would prefer to pay with cash.

Another downside is that there isn’t just one app. Although PayByPhone and RingGo cover around four fifths of the UK’s cashless parking locations, not every local authority or private car park uses them. Go to a strange town and you may have to download a new app. Before you know, it’s entirely feasible you’ll end up with a handful of parking apps on your phone.

In addition, there can be added costs to paying by app. Some app services charge users an ‘administration’ or ‘convenience’ fee every time they park with the app. There are also handy text reminders to tell you when your parking time is about to expire. And you can get a text summary of where, when and how much your parking was. But these services also cost extra, typically about 30p each. It can add as much as 20 per cent to the cost of parking.

What are the benefits of cashless parking?

The primary benefit is there should be no more hunting for the right change. And it should do away with the inevitable cursing when you have to pay £2 to park because you don’t have the coins to pay the correct £1.40.

Drivers can also extend their parking through the app where it’s legal to do so meaning no running outside to ‘feed the meter’.

If parking meters don’t have to accept cash it means they can’t get jammed up or full with coins, a frequent cause of malfunctions. So more reliable parking meters should result. Using parking apps should also help prevent drivers inputting incorrect registration details (substituting the letter O for a zero is a common error). And if you do, the parking operator will be able to see exactly what you’ve done. If you’ve made an honest mistake, there’s a good chance you’ll be let off any resulting fine.

49 comments on “Cashless parking catches drivers out. Here’s why it’s costing millions

  1. D J groom 17/10/2019 3:45 PM

    I am not a very proficiant mobile user as are many pensioners and dither over new tech or not be able to download correctly. I prefer to pay cash or if I have to card payment.

    • P. Foulkes 20/09/2022 4:06 PM

      I usually pay by card on the way out of my usual car park, today because of road works found myself in a cash or phone payment, I had no cash and could not download the app as I needed a password for my Apple account, by the time I had found cash I had been issued a fine, I have immediately appealed. I was literally 10 minutes in the car park and only given 3 minutes from the time the warden saw my car, must have been one step behind me.The meter didn’t give change so i paid 60 pence over the actual fee for parking, so shocked when I got to my car to find the ticket on my windshield.

    • Samantha 20/09/2023 3:44 AM

      Neither my dad nor I even OWN a smartphone. My dad because he isn’t tech savvy, me because I’m poor and don’t want to pay a high monthly fee when Kindle does Wifi for no added phone cost.

      So we went to Williamsburg, and they had some phone app thing. You literally couldn’t pay. So we boycotted. We parked miles out of our way and walked to where we wanted to go.

      Another time, it was “credit only” parking for a stadium. Thing is, there were actual people there, and they grabbed our card. There was nothing “touchless” about this (so no using COVID as an excuse) and they were fulling capable of taking our money. It actually caused traffic slowdown, because it takes about two seconds to grab money, and about 2 minutes to swipe, type the amount, and confirm. Cash is king, in terms of currency anyway.

    • B 23/03/2024 11:00 AM

      I agree, also my does do apps

  2. Jemima Parry-Jones 18/02/2020 8:34 PM

    I have a phone that does not have apps, so what are people like me supposed to do???

  3. Robert Evans 18/02/2020 9:01 PM

    Normal people ONLY have cash……………not everyone can use debit / credit cards or even want to……………People who have I PHONES etc are in the minority too so why Discriminate against people with cash

  4. Ken Williams 18/02/2020 10:02 PM

    Just another case of greed driven car park owners making life difficult for motorists so they can be ripped off wholesale. Also it is a form of discrimination which should be made illegal.

  5. Bill Hall 18/02/2020 10:10 PM

    mobile phone come filled with apps that will never be used but can’t be deleted so there is not much room for lots more apps. Paying by cashless should mean not having to specify the parking time, the charge being calculated on the time you leave rather than the £90 fine for being 10 minutes late

  6. Freda Enderby 19/02/2020 7:31 AM

    there is a better option use park n ride most towns and city’s have them

    • R.Tucker 07/06/2023 6:10 PM

      Our local hospital , 7 miles away , doesn’t have park and ride or a regular bus service.
      Why do I need a degree in technology to park my damn car ???!!!

  7. Ray Stevens 19/02/2020 9:37 AM

    payment by phone using an app…………..whats that, even if it was explained to me that would be no help to make payment……….i am a pensioner as well, good luck with that idea as i wouldn’t know were to start

  8. Colin mayne 19/02/2020 9:40 AM

    I don’t have a mobile phone, nor do I have a credit card, so I don’t bother going into the city anymore !!!

  9. David Stuffins 19/02/2020 9:54 AM

    It is not your right to pay by cash.

    My local swimming pool only take card payments now.

  10. Hazel 19/02/2020 10:00 AM

    Like you say, it should be considered a right to be able to pay with coins. I don’t want to use my phone and pay that way as I don’t trust the security of paying anything by phone. Using my debit card is okay but what if it’s just before payday or you don’t know how much is in your account? You may have cash only. Cash payment should be totally standard in every parking area.

  11. Mrs. Sandra Brooks 19/02/2020 10:12 AM

    Cashless parking should be banned as it discriminates against those who do not have credit/debit cards or phones with aps.

  12. Sylvia Stride 19/02/2020 10:33 AM

    I haven’t downloaded an ap on my phone yet. Is there an ap that you can set up when you arrive and check out when you leave rather than put in x hours. I have to often go to hospital and never know how long I will be so something like that would be useful as often put in too much money just in case and it is expensive.

  13. J smith 19/02/2020 10:39 AM

    Even if you’re a disabled driver you still get screwed by the system

  14. Alan Ogden 19/02/2020 10:46 AM

    This is part of a worrying trend driven by the need of business and government to max profits or minimise cost. The cashless society, the paperless society and the online only society is not for the benefit of ordinary people – the old, the infirm, the poor, the disadvantaged or people who just don’t want to, or can’t, engage in a tech rich world. We are being marginalized by those who purport to have our best interests at heart.

  15. Julia Channing 19/02/2020 1:45 PM

    I often encounter this problem as I don’t have a smart phone, but in that case I would move on to a different car park rather than remain without having paid.

  16. me 19/02/2020 4:38 PM

    Agree….. if its cASHLESS then it also should be able to pay with cash/ OR if it is CASHLESS let it be you are able to be free as it says CASH LESS.

  17. Roy Carstairs 19/02/2020 7:23 PM

    Our local authority run car parks have the options of cash, card and Ringo.

  18. Diana Hudson 19/02/2020 10:06 PM

    Totally agree with Sandra Brooks. My husband doesn’t even have a card and he certainly doesn’t have a smart phone. He uses cash for everything. I have a smart phone but it’s PAYG Only so I don’t have data on it to use internet. Forcing people to go cashless is discrimination to those who can’t understand technology or can’t afford fancy smart phones. What does a disabled person do if they don’t have enough use of their hands to cope with a phone keyboard? They can still drive an adapted car but may not be able to fiddle around with tiny keys.

  19. Eleanor Holmes 19/02/2020 11:24 PM

    I do not have a smart phone. I choose not to have a smart phone and use an ancient pay as you go phone which makes calls and sends texts in an emergency. I wouldn’t trust parking companies with my credit card details, I trust few people with that info. I think people over 60 should not be expected to have a smart phone, especially as contracts can be expensive. My hands are crippled with arthritis and whilst I am perfectly capable of driving, juggling an expensive phone in the ice cold wind and rain, whilst fumbling for reading specs is not something I wish to do. Why should I? This is discrimination against the older generation and should be nipped in the bud right now.

    • Lia robsons 16/04/2022 3:36 PM

      It is not just old people who have arthritis or disabilities that mean they cannot use phones. It is not just old people that can not afford phones. You are discriminating against people. Please STOP

  20. John D 20/02/2020 8:18 AM

    I have just fought and LOST my appeal against a £50.00 Fine for not buying a Parking Ticket – EVEN THOUGH I DID BUY A TICKET USING RINGO – My mistake was to buy a Parking Ticket via Ringo 10 minutes later having left the car park ! – Apparently the CHRISTCHURCH (Dorset) Council dictate that you must not leave your car until you have purchased a valid Parking Ticket, meaning you have to beg for change from passers by, or struggle with poor Internet service…. The Councils need to look to themselves when the High Street empty’s of Retailers, the Council’s money grabbing arrogance is truly stunning..

  21. Geoff Phillips 20/02/2020 8:20 AM

    I do not have a mobile telephone and don’t want one either, so where does that leave me ? Got plenty of cash and would wish to use it – but not on car park penalties.

  22. Pat Trezise 20/02/2020 8:41 AM

    Some of my elderly friends do not have a mobile phone, although still perfectly able to drive, indeed would be cut off in some rural communities.
    I visited a car park on the seafront at Beer in Devon, to my delight the car park was empty, when I went to pay using my card I found out why, there was no signal!

  23. Keith Bosustow 20/02/2020 10:22 AM

    I do not understand how to use a phone app to pay for parking and I do not particularly want to know. What is wrong with paying by cash ? But there is the answer, it cost to pay a reliable person to collect the money from the meters.

  24. Clive Semmens (@CliveKSemmens) 20/02/2020 11:44 AM

    I’m sure I’m not the only person who will simply go somewhre else to do my shopping rather than have to mess with inconvenient methods of paying for parking. I don’t use a mobile phone – personally I don’t mind paying with a credit card or cash, but I expect to have the choice.
    Where mobile phone apps are the only option – tough, the businesses in your area have lost my custom.

  25. JONATHAN MORRIS 20/02/2020 12:07 PM

    i am 75 yrs old ,do not have a smart phone, nor do i want one. i do however have debit/credit cards and am happy to use them , like many other older people i do feel penalised for not having a smart phone, tthis should not be the only option when trying to park.

  26. Jean McLaughlin 20/02/2020 12:11 PM

    Cashless Parking is a long winded process so not much good if you are in a hurry. Not great if you have a degree of hearing loss, especially if there is background noise where you are like traffic noise. I’ve only used it twice and on the second occasion it tried charging me for somewhere in a different city with same street name. Not much good either when you find your phone battery has gone flat. I know several people
    who have got caught and fined simply because they could not work out how cashless worked. Really horrible system.

  27. D J Groom 20/02/2020 12:14 PM

    Further to my original comment how about toll payment such as on the Dartford crossing Nr London. And others. Saturday night and you only have 24 hours to pay in a unfamiliar location so you don’t now where a post office is, assuming it opens on a Sunday. Good luck with that.

  28. Geoff Page 20/02/2020 4:49 PM

    This is a growing trend to do away with cash payments altogether, it should be Opposed !

  29. David ian iosson 20/02/2020 8:26 PM

    This trend is discrimination against the older generation and those people who don’t have or want or need a smart phone. I think that this trend is all due to laziness on the part of the car park operators, be it council or private…they can’t be bothered to go around or too mean to employ someone to empty the parking ticket machines, check them and make sure that they are in working order and have a good supply of tickets in them.

  30. Rob 20/02/2020 8:44 PM

    I am 65yrs old and have used the paybyphone app for a few years now to park near my work. I get a weeks parking cheaper on the app than putting coins in the machine.

  31. janet 20/02/2020 9:13 PM

    I don’t have a mobile phone and am in a wheelchair so reaching the machine, reading instructions etc can be difficult. I hate it when hospitals have this method. It’s even worse in bad weather -and when I can’t read it without glasses because the writing is too small/too far away

  32. J Creighton not yet 60 21/02/2020 12:13 AM

    I don’t have nor do i want a smart phone. i have accepted that technology is here to stay but it should be AN option NOT the only option. i can’t believe that this kind of discrimination is continuing at the pace it is and not just regarding parking payments. long live cash…….

  33. Mike Price 21/02/2020 12:15 AM

    OK I am nearly 60 – but I have been working with computers since 1981 so I have sorta got the hang of them by now
    I have a smart phone – several in fact because I have had one for years and the old ones are upstairs in a drawer but I am re-using some for fitness apps
    However, I cannot use an app to pay for parking on my main phone – not because I don’t understand it – but because I don’t have any space left on my phone to install a new app every time I park in a new car park
    OK – I could get a new phone – but why should I spend £x00 just to be able to park in loads of differnet places where I have no clue which app I will need?? – a couple fo times a year
    The last time I tried to park in a strange car park that needed a phone call – I had no signal (OK blame EE but whatever)
    so – no signal – no downloading apps – what do I do

    so $deity help anyone my age who doesn’t have many decades experience with computery stuff

  34. Jackie Martin 21/02/2020 5:34 PM

    Cash,easy are not the only problem. Having got used to always having to pay by card or phone I was caught out on a visit to Amersham hospital when the meter only took cash and not card or phone payments. I didn’t have a penny on me. The hospital had no cash machine as ‘it would only get broken in to’ the said. I believe you should be able to use cash, card or phone.

  35. Colin Evans 22/02/2020 2:34 AM

    Absolute ridiculous time to try to pay at Mumbles Swansea yesterday – in the end a few people gave up and left the car park – how can local councils support the local high streets ? So furious will be writing to local council/MP – probably will now use out of town shopping venues rather than local town/village.

  36. Hazel Wilson 28/08/2021 4:24 PM

    I to can’t work my phone that well and get very confused with the pay on phone idea , I could just about pay using my card !! But would have to ask someone how to do it as I wouldn’t be able to remember how to proceed with getting a ticket . It seems ok if u r young but I am sure the over 70’s struggle a lot with this .
    What happens if I haven’t a signal or my battery dies ??? I would be very stuck beginning to hate the car parks !!

  37. Hazel Wilson 12/09/2021 10:37 PM

    I paid by cash for one hour then decided to stay longer but had not the right money , I am over seventy and can’t understand how to pay on my phone , the parking meteor wouldn’t even except a card so we had to leave the beach just ruined our day out in Bournemouth beach

  38. Susan Bamford 06/06/2022 7:07 PM

    I parked twice at car park in Lichfield run by Excel parking and paid at a cashless machine. Got fined, appealed but got no where. This is also the experience of countless others.

  39. Emma Nash 31/08/2022 9:49 PM

    Honestly some of these comments state that it is not your right to pay by cash. Some people especially the elderly or disabled do not have mobiles or smart phones! What happened to equal rights. All this does is isolates and segregates. I am a young person who has just received a fine for seeking out how to pay by cash. I will not support a cashless system, we have to fight for those that are less able. This is only going one way – A cashless society – followed by a credit system

  40. Alan Houghton 09/09/2022 3:37 PM

    I missed my train today, though I have a blue badge, I was not registered and could not register in the 10 minutes I had to catch the train. maybe the railway staff should be trained, as I asked 2 of them and they both said If I am not registered I will get a ticket, not once did they say I could pay retrospectively within 24 hours

  41. kingsley elliff 24/10/2022 8:25 PM

    i got a fine for not sticking a ticket on a motorbike in a windy seaside car park , how was I supposed to do this ?

  42. Pauline Edmonds 27/10/2022 12:18 PM

    I tried to pay by £1 coin. Machine did nat accept cash. Couldn’t read location number clearly, however, after taking a photo, figured out the location number, called and gave my details. My card details were not authorized and I only have one visa card. I had to leave without paying after 10-15 minutes (most of this time trying to figure out out to pay etc.) Will I be fined for this? Parking charge was 70p.

  43. Pauline Edmonds 27/10/2022 12:19 PM

    I tried to pay by £1 coin. Machine did nat accept cash. Couldn’t read location number clearly, however, after taking a photo, figured out the location number, called and gave my details. My card details were not authorized and I only have one visa card. I had to leave without paying after 10-15 minutes (most of this time trying to figure out out to pay etc.) Will I be fined for this? Parking charge was 70p

  44. Barry Bowen 04/06/2023 4:41 PM

    I was visiting my son in Dorset and tried to park at Poole Harbour 2 Car Park. It would only accept the JustPark app or a phone call to a robot. I didn’t have the app and there was no internet signal. I tried phoning but kept getting timed out (the bright sun meant I couldn’t see my phone or my card clearly and I also type a lot slower than 30 year olds with “magic thumbs”). I am 78 and from Norfolk. After 25 minutes a very nice woman paid on her phone and I gave her the money – £2! Poole shops etc will be losing a lot of custom from visitors and older people.

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