Cashless Big Issue

As an organisation, our impact is based on our ability to empower the most marginalised and vulnerable people in society into work. With fewer people carrying cash, we want to ensure vendors don’t miss out on magazine sales.

We’ve gone cashless

In 2018, The Big Issue and iZettle partnered to launch a trial allowing vendors in five cities across the UK to accept contactless payments, in addition to cash, with the idea of enabling them to earn an income that they wouldn’t have been able to previously.

Big Issue vendors are micro-entrepreneurs and are effectively running their own small businesses. They buy magazines from us for £1.25 each and sell them to you for £2.50, keeping the profit.

So in this increasingly cashless society, understandably there are many vendors who are keen to respond to market forces and offer their customers a way of buying the magazine without cash.

The partnership reflects our values and vision for creating a more financially inclusive society.

 Where Can I Find A Cashless Vendor?

Our aim is to extend this scheme to as many vendors as possible and encourage customers to talk to their vendors about going cashless.

Click the pins on the map below to locate vendors who currently accept cashless payments.

A vendor’s cashless journey

For Big Issue vendors, the road to going cashless isn’t always simple. Below are some of the challenges many of them face and how we’re developing solutions to help.


Why did you decide to make the scheme nationwide?

The results of our trial showed that vendors were able to sell more magazines through accepting contactless payments, in addition to cash.

  • On average, around 25% of the vendors total sales were made via cashless payments on iZettle.
  • Two vendors were, and are still, making around 80% of their sales via cashless payments through iZettle.
  • One of the top performing vendors has seen his magazine sales increase by 290%.

Where did the trial take place?

  • The trial initially took place in London, Birmingham, Bath, Bristol and Nottingham. We then added Exeter and Cardiff onto this list. 21 vendors took part in the trial.

Why did it take 10 months to roll this out nationwide?

  • We wanted to collect as much data as possible. Christmas is notoriously a peak season for Big Issue vendors so we wanted to collect data in ‘off peak’ months. We therefore extended the trial to run from December 2018 – May 2019, instead of December 2018 – February 2019.
  • We’ve also now appointed Financial Inclusion leads in each area. Part of their responsibility will be helping the vendors register to iZettle in the easiest possible way.
  • It is also considerably harder for those who are socially excluded to have the same access to financial services and products as well as advice and support. The patience and support of iZettle was crucial in allowing us the space to develop insight to further inform our next steps regarding the roll out.

How many Big Issue vendors are now cashless after the trial?

  • We have roughly 70 vendors who accept cashless payments are we are looking to get as many vendors set-up as possible!

What’s the criteria for vendors that wish to sign up? Don’t they need a bank account?

  • Currently, for an individual to get a card reader, they need to have access to a bank account so that they have a place for their funds to be deposited into. They also need to fulfill proof of ID requirements, including a fixed residential address.
  • We’re aware that for some Big Issue sellers, this may be a challenge, and are working to try and find a solution here and help support more Big Issue sellers get a foot firmly back into mainstream society.
  • There is a lot of work being done in this area across the financial industry and we are actively working with a number of financial institutions to help develop easier access, basic banking facilities that will help support more Big Issue sellers get a foot firmly back into mainstream society.

Does iZettle charge Big Issue vendors?

  • For the initial trial, iZettle provided vendors with a free Reader. Vendors were then charged a discounted transaction rate for every magazine they sold.
  • Going forward, Big Issue vendors will be able to purchase the iZettle Reader at the heavily discounted rate of £9 +VAT. They will also be charged a discounted transaction rate for every magazine sold.

Why can’t you waive the fee for Big Issue vendors and/or give them free iZettle Readers?

  • We have introduced cashless payments to give new and existing customers an alternative means of buying the magazine, and to help vendors do business they wouldn’t otherwise have done.
  • The Big Issue also has a ‘hand up not hand out’ ethos. The organisation will help vendor’s where necessary purchase a Reader through their Vendor Support Fund but believes that by the vendor’s making a financial contribution themselves, however small, they are taking a step towards taking control of their lives.

How quickly will Big Issue vendors get their payments?

  • iZettle deposits funds within 3-4 days.

Will the Big Issue vendors pay tax?

  • Selling The Big Issue magazine offers a flexible means of earning an income. Vendors are not employed by The Big Issue and can work as many or as few hours as they choose. Should their earnings surpass the allowance they are responsible for ensuring the correct amount of tax is paid.

If a Big Issue vendor did misuse contactless payments, would you reimburse the individual affected?

  • Yes, we would work with the individual, The Big Issue and the card issuer to ensure reimbursement but this is highly unlikely.
  • The cardholder isn’t liable for fraudulent contactless transactions. iZettle has special restrictions and monitoring in place to detect fraud.

Are contactless payments safe?

  • Touch and go technology is one of the safest payment methods in circulation. The technology uses the same security features as Chip & PIN and with a £30 cap on transactions, is regarded as highly anti-fraud.