/ Money

Don’t close down cash now that we’re opening up

The warning lights continue to flash for the future of cash. Here’s why the government cannot afford to ignore them.

For the 5.4 million people in this country reliant on cash in their everyday lives, the story of dwindling access to it is a familiar one. When we surveyed over 2,000 people in July, more than half of them had encountered access to cash or banking issues. 

But it is the speed at which these changes are happening that is of most concern.

Our analysis of recent data from LINK, the UK’s largest cash machine network, revealed that the number of ATMs in service has dropped by almost 8,000 (or 13 per cent) since March 2020 and shows no signs of recovering now that the economy is opening up.

It isn’t just ATMs. Bank branch closures have also ramped up since the first national lockdown: 801 have shut their doors so far and a further 103 are earmarked for closure by the end of the year. 

A worrying trend

As we look to build back better from the pandemic, we cannot exclude certain groups of consumers, including those reliant on cash, from participating in the recovery. Encouraging cash usage also helps boost local economies since we know that those who take cash out are more likely to spend it locally.

Yet protecting access to cash is only part of the problem – the other, equally important, side of the coin is whether shops and businesses even accept it. Unless retailers can commit to taking cash as a payment method, ensuring reasonable access to it will hardly matter.

Our survey in June found that over a fifth of respondents had experienced cash refusal since March. A small number of shops have previously refused to accept cash due to the cost of handling it (security protection, paying people to count and deposit it). But many have stopped doing so during the pandemic amid confusion over how the virus spreads, or because they have shifted their business models online. 

However, data suggests that this reluctance to accept cash is happening against the will of consumers.

We found that over 80% of people thought that businesses and shops should continue to take cash, including those that don’t use it themselves. Businesses agree. A recent Post Office survey revealed that far from finding cash to be a relic of the past, two thirds of firms thought it was important to the recovery of the UK retail industry.

Our Cash Friendly pledge

Firms that can should state clearly that they will will continue to accept cash from consumers who still rely on it – as many have done by taking Which?’s Cash Friendly pledge.

The initiative is supported by organisations such as the Bank of England and British Retail Consortium, large retailers such as John Lewis and Aldi, as well as many independent shops and businesses across the UK. 

The government has proposed that the FCA becomes the lead regulator of the cash network. In this role, its responsibilities should extend to tracking levels of cash refusal to better understand the scale of the issue. If necessary, it should also develop solutions so that cash dependent consumers aren’t left in a position where they can’t purchase essential products and services.

The warning lights are flashing for the future of cash – and the government cannot afford to ignore them. 


I have been scammed by a company named Neuer Capital or as they are now Ncapital and the scammers names are Christopher Green and Shane Dupree they are the scammers and I have lost my savings to the low life they will ask you to down lode a app called Any Desk. I have lost £ 100,0000 to the scammers and my bank HSBC will not give me my money back. But they have said that I am a victim of a thing called Pushscam and found in my favour but are she saying that they will not give me my money back

Scammed? Really?

Whether they are dishonest or not, Neuer Capital / Ncapital provide a crypto-currency trading platform. Anyone who chooses to put their money in a speculative, unregulated Tulip or South Sea Bubble scheme that they do not understand (and nor does anyone else), not backed by any assets, cannot possibily expect to receive any form of financial protection to save them from their bad investments.

Please, please avoid these get-rich-quick schemes and invest in UK FTSE 100 backed unit or investment trusts, if keeping your money in the Building Society isn’t exciting enough.

Arthur Wrigleo says:
17 September 2021

Fell for an Adblock advert on Facebook just £2.99 I thought, but it turned out to be £3.59 – they didnt mention the vat – but worse, if you ignored all the warnings from your security software – you would expect it to flag some dubiousness – you then get a bill for the VPN that is needed at £59.99 – a generous discount of course – then you only find you’ve been done an hour later when the PayPal bill appears. We will see if they honour the refund policy. But this is a scam if if ever I saw one. Sucker.
Of course I now cannot find the article that I fell for.

Glenn Heaton says:
19 September 2021

Email account was hacked into, so emailed numerous companies to inform them and change my contact info. Most of them replied on my OLD account to tell me they had changed to my new address.
So much for security!

All scammers should be prosecuted!

Agreed, Albert, but first you have to catch them at it and find out where they are. No one has yet found a reliable way of doing that. We need to catch the Mr Big’s.

The poor saps who make contact are themselves being exploited as they are sold useless contact lists and dodgy scripts so make little money out of their endeavours but have to put up with lots of abuse. I don’t sympathise with them, since it is a despicable activity, but the main targets are well concealed.

Facebook does nothing to help. I report scams to them every day but their poor technology lets the scammers carry on as if nothing happened. I would say Facebook does more to protect the scammers than it does anyone else.

Eileen says:
24 September 2021

Totally agree, they don’t even respond when you advise them

Jan Roy says:
24 September 2021

The Humber Bridge toll will not accept cash. My debit card was rejected even though I had no problems the next time I used it. A paper was given and no mention was made that it only allowed 72 hours to pay. We were on holiday and did not have access to a computer until coming home. The toll fee was £1.50 and we were charged £16.50. This is very unfair and is a result of not accepting cash and card failure on their machine. Apparently the toll was made cashless in December 2020.

I agree that this is unfair, Jan, and I would write to the Humber Bridge Board, which seems to be responsible (maybe not the right choice of word!) for tolls. If you explain the circumstances you might get a refund.

I used the Tyne Tunnel earlier this year and found that it it required the correct change and would not take a card. I had notes but not the £1.90 required. I had only until the end of the following day to pay online. Fortunately I don’t go away without a laptop. At the time I was told by a friend who lives in North Lincolnshire that cash was no longer acceptable at the Humber Bridge, which you have discovered.

We need options for payments. A shop or pub can decline to accept cash if they must but it is unreasonable to apply this to bridge tolls.

I think essential facilities, with no alternative, should be required to accept cash for low value transactions, such as road tolls, public transport. Cash has security issues, does require more handling that is avoided by electronic transactions but that is just a penalty of offering a paid service.

The Humber Bridge allows payment to be made up to 72 hours after a crossing, without penalty. This would work for most casual users but not for absolutely everyone.

It seems that it was concern about the risk of coronavirus that triggered to move to cashless transactions at the Humber Bridge, but since then it was decided not to go back to accepting cash: https://www.humberbridge.co.uk/2020/12/01/humber-bridge-embraces-cashless-future/

“So, there are benefits to both our customers and our staff from this move.” Jan might not agree.

As far as I know, there have still been no examples of anyone being infected as a result of handling cash, but the pandemic has been responsible for many businesses going cashless.

The handling issues were appropriate at the time when little was known about how Covid-19 could spread. Our sports club required all equipment, light switches, door handles etc etc to be sanitised before and after each event along with masks, social distancing, open windows, and so in. Far better to overdo (in hindsight) precautions and give more confidence for people to attend. When you see parties, packed nightclubs, planes full of holiday makers………

It seems that the conditions of your crossing without payment were not made clear to you.

And if you look that the Humber Bridge website, it is a pig’s ear of various terms.

“Deferred Payments:
These are issued to drivers in use of emergencies and may be subject to administration charges.
Please see Deferred Payment ‘leaflet’ below.”

There is no Deferred Payment ‘leaflet’ below.

The hyperlink to Humbertag does talk about “administration charges”, but these are not laid out.

Presumably this is what is listed under the “Additional Charges Summary”.

Schedule 2, paragraph 1, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, states that terms may be unfair if they have the object or effect of:
(i) irrevocably binding the consumer to terms with which he had no real opportunity of becoming acquainted before the conclusion of the contract.

There are excellent points made here by others. Have you actually paid this levy or do you still hold the ante? I suspect, valid as these points are (particularly those made by Em), if you’ve already tendered the £16.50, unless clearly made “under duress”, the case you’d have for not being advised of the time-bound payment is weakened. Nevertheless, a well-written pleas could see a non prejudicial refund. Good luck.

I don’t believe a shop or pub can reasonably refuse cash. There are people who aren’t tech savvy and don’t manage well with banks. Protect them. Once cash is gone you will be traced and your data mined from everywhere.

I’m afraid they can in most circumstances. When a shop places goods on display, it is what is know in law as an “invitiation to treat”. In other words, the onus is on you to make an offer to buy the goods. The shop must first accept your offer, before the shop is bound to sell them on the terms you agree.

Once you have made an offer, both parties can still negotiate on the deal, because there is no contract at this stage. The shop could refuse to sell you the goods, without giving a reason. Maybe they mispriced it. The shop could say they only have the display model in stock, but are still prepared to sell it. You could ask for a (further) discount. The shop can ask you pay by debit card. You can ask to pay in cash. The shop can refuse. There is still no contract and you cannot force a shop to sell you something on terms it does not agree to.

Only once both parties have agreed to the terms and the shop has finally accepted your offer, normally at the point of taking payment, is there a binding contract. Neither you nor the shop could then alter the terms of the contract. But because payment or “consideration” is necessary to form the contract of sale, it is difficult to force a retail shop to accept cash, if they don’t wish to do so.

To understand this concept of “invitation to treat” and the offer / acceptance roles in the transaction, it is useful to compare with a vending machine.

In this case, the vending machine is the party seen as making the offer, since it cannot negotiate terms. It is a “take it or leave it” offer. Either you insert the money and receive the goods or service (a ticket maybe), or you walk away from the offer. By inserting your payment, you have accepted the offer and a contract is made.

Of course, if a vending machine does not accept cash, or only coins or notes in certain denominations, you cannot force it to do so. That is part of the terms of the offer made.

The roles are slightly more complicated in a pub or restaurant. The menu / buffet / bar display is still an “invitation to treat”.

The customer places an order (the offer) and the pub / restaurant agrees to serve the items (acceptance of offer). This is also the initial “consideration” – one party has provided items of value to the other, and the contract is now formed.

Implicit in that contract is that the customer will pay the bill / bar tab before leaving. If the pub / restaurant made it clear, before the contract was made, that they would not accept cash, you cannot then force them to do so. They would be silly not to accept payment in cash if that is all you have, but you are in technical breach of the contract you made by ordering and consuming the food and drinks.

A good explanation, Isla.

There are some public services that should always accept cash – transport for example, either directly or via a ticket machine, road tolls, public parking.

However, it seems to me the company seeking to make a sale has to weigh up any disadvantages in refusing cash on its profitability. Many will, no doubt, see that accepting all forms of payment is in its business’s interests.

I hope that cash will remain acceptable but when I was on holiday recently I saw examples of businesses that have already gone cashless. Here is an example:

That is the businesses prerogative, unless it fulfils an essential public service. I have seen no such signs so far, nor dealt with any businesses that have refused cash – but then, I generally use a card so don’t necessarily know their attitude to cash.

I would, however, not support the attitude of any businesses that refuses to take cash, as so many still want to use it. Hopefully, public opinion and customer pressure will guide many businesses in their practice.

Some staff restaurants and cafes not open to the public have operated on a cashless basis for many years. Perhaps originating with the use of – at the time – tax free luncheon vouchers. Sadly, HMRC decided to limit the tax free value of this perk to 15p, and they soon became worth less than the paper they were printed on.

But the practice continues, with staff topping up a magnetic staff card at a machine. More recently, some companies have done away with these machines all together, and you pay with a standard contactless debit or credit card. It is actually more hygenic if the cashiers (a new term will soon be required) don’t have to handle notes or make change.

I don’t see cash disappearing any time soon but with so many people using cards I expect that more retailers will refuse cash. I had expected strong pressure on the government to require retailers to take cash but that has not happened so far.

Jan Roy’s example of being unable to pay the Humber Bridge toll in cash is an example of where the government should intervene because for those who don’t use cards there is no practical alternative.

I don’t see that it follows that if more of us use cards (as we have for a long time) retailers will refuse cash. I see no reason why the two cannot coexist.

Because there is always some bean counter (CFO), who doesn’t want the staff to count beans any more. It is not an efficient use of their time cashing up and there is more opportunity for theft. That’s still a real problem in the retail sector, particularly when staff are underpaid.

I foresee a gradual decline in acceptance of cash. Isla mentioned the hygiene issue of handling cash and serving food, which is best done with two people. I would prefer that we all used cards when buying an ice cream from a van.

Although I have more or less stopped using cash I’m keen that it remains an option for those who want to use it.

I was almost caught short yesterday when my little one needed to take in money for a Macmillan cake day and had to raid a money jar for coins as nobody had cash in the house haha

I can see the same @wavechange, although I never use physical cash really. It is nice for people to have the option to do so.

I can see the point about pilferage from the till in places like pubs and restaurants, but usually these days, in connexion with the electronic point of sale software, staff are required to key in or enter their passcode before transacting an order or payment. That should seriously limit the opportunity for irregularities. I do not expect the system is fool-proof but with usually only a small number of staff serving in each session it must make it possible to narrow down the perpetrator of any serial improper activity. I am worried that the continuing trickle of cashless establishments will build up into a tide and soon become the norm, especially in the independent hospitality sector. I really don’t want the government to have to consider legislating on this but it looks like it might have to.

I think counting the pennies is still a good way to run a business from several points of view.

Chirag – I decided to investigate the practicalities of not using cash at the start of 2020. The regular problem is buying eggs from a local farm, which involves putting coins in the honesty box. I do keep some coins for parking, and carry £40 in the phone case.

I am not sure how charities cope with people who don’t carry cash, as in your example.

Is Mrs Windsor online? Could we have some advice on how to go cashless?

I suspect there will be a re-emergence and acceptance of the IOU note.

Charities have been losing a lot of money during the lockdowns because of the closure of their shops but also because of the lack of spontaneous donations at events and into collection boxes on the high streets.

Yes, it’s a major problem for them. A charity that I’m involved has been running organised events for family groups and it has proved easy for the organiser to get donations by cheque in advance. Where we operate, there is no reliable mobile signal so that we cannot take card payments outdoors.

I am on my 3rd replacement Credit Card this year, after buying I on line & realizing I’d been caught❗️ 40 mins on phone waiting to get thru to my CC company you report it😏 Then you wait for them to take ur money, then ur company argues😏 Crazy❗️ Write in the couple of days following on one purchase. They took more & more money & I could do nothing❓ AND IT GETS WORSE… bigger phone scams followed in the days after. One that went over 2 days “I was exhausted” having got as much info out of the scammers I could do I could pass it on. The Cyber fraud squad when I finally got them informed me that for six or 7 pounds in most high Street electrical stores you can purchase a little machine which you plug in to either your phone or computer and you can punch in any number! Yes any number you choose for the person you’re calling to see!!!When I said but this is fraud? Why are they being allowed to sell this equipment? Why don’t the government stop this?
The answer… That people need to hide their identity now because of SCAM 🤬 when I said but this is fraud? Why are they being allowed to sell this equipment? Why don’t the government stop this?
The answer… That people need to hide their identity now because of scams❗️
However I said but you can block any caller from seeing your number on your mobile. And you can do the same with your PC on your landline you can add 141 there is absolutely no reason for anyone to own this piece of equipment especially as the cyber fraud squad know that this is what the scammers are using. In my case they told me they were MBNA and Barclays attached fraud squad and came Barclays official telephone number and he even go to me to going onto Google checking the telephone number he was calling from and it would come up saying it was from Barclays this is too much for people to have to deal with every time they make a purchase! We are being driven crazy this is an excuse for everybody to carry on in this way it’s misdirection we’re being used and manipulated every single step of the way. We were told banking was now 100% safe online would save you having to go to the bank etc. etc. it’s a nightmare! Shopping online was gonna be so easy and so save that lovely little padlock that comes up everywhere that tells you they just copy these things no one is protecting us
No one is Protecting us!

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Sam — I got a bit lost in your explanation but I admire your concern over personal on-line security.

Just one point, however, . . .it’s not a good idea to use your e-mail address as your user name on public websites. You can ask to change it retrospectively so that any existing posts showing your e-mail address will be converted to a new name of your choosing.

My son often buys old people food where he works, because they come in with cash and it isn’t to be accepted. There should be a regional list of businesses that won’t accept cash and we should boycott them all. Keep cash alive.

As Isla mentioned above, another term is required for the cashless “cashier” who takes payment using a number of alternative payment options.

Debitier, creditier, paymentier, Klarnaier?

Any suggestions? Perhaps another Which? poll?

“Teller” or “clerk” are existing alternatives.

I like “paymentier” – it is close to the job description “parmentier” [or “parmenter”] — one who prepares or finishes things, particularly food. There is a street in Norwich called Parmentergate as a link back to those trades [and there was possibly a guild].

If you handle cash in a food environment then wash your hands from time to time, just as you should if you visit the loo, scratch your head or blow your nose.

I thought about a (card) chippy or chippie, but that won’t translate well across the Atlantic.

Maybe a tapper, as long as they only deal in amounts under £100?

No such restriction if you tap your phone, apparently. It’s on the cards to try.

I know several people who do not have a mobile phone, computer, bank account and TV. How is this technical age preparing to cope with them, because they still exist.

Cash is legal tender in this country. They have no right to remove its use in any shop or business selling anything to the public.

What will happen if for some reason the internet goes down or you cannot get the internet, will we all starve, or freeze or go unclothed?
That may seem an extreme comment but it is an extreme situation for some of the population.
To use online card banking you require basic essentials that the many non city dwellers do not have.

This may surprise you but no, we do not all live in cities nor do many of us have the internet, let alone superfast internet, we do not have buses or any other public transport but it would appear that we no longer count. Many people do not have a bank account, if there was a bank at all, with most rural banks closing that is not an option either.
Most bills are paid in cash which used to be obtainable from the Post Office before the Government did their best to remove all the Post Offices, we managed to stop that.
Now they are stopping peoples benefits from being paid into the Post Office.
So where exactly do people of all ages get their cash from?
Cash machine, no none, see above re banks.

So if your town dwellers had their alternative internet (expensive) costs and taxi fares deducted from their benefit would they let that pass. No, of course they wouldn’t.
Why should we?

Sandra says:
10 October 2021

Forcing people to pay by card or apps only is unacceptable. Customers must have the right to say NO to extra fees and their purchases being tracked by banks etc. – not to mention people who for various reasons have no access to cashless payment methods. Stores should be free to offer these methods but they should never be allowed to go “cashless” because doing so excludes and discriminates against many people. Covid is no viable excuse for this deeply problematic tendency, as cash is of negligible importance for the transmission of Coronavirus.

I support the retention of acceptance of cash, since not everyone is able to or wants to use cards etc.

Can please you give us any examples of extra fees according to method of payment, Sandra? Some retailers used to charge extra to pay by card but that was made illegal and I do not know of any supplements for using cash.

Helen Russell says:
12 October 2021

Of COURSE cash should be accepted everywhere. It is much easier to use a card but it’s also much easier to overspend on a card. It has other advantages when out an about – at least thieves can only steal the cash you are carrying and not use your card to invade and wipe out your bank account. Some people have to be very careful indeed how much they spend and using cash is the best way to do it

Lauren says:
14 October 2021

I am a support worker and a service user of mine needed a new clock. He chose one and was so happy and excitable about it. Got to the till and refused cash. He couldn’t understand why. He was heartbroken. Asked to speak to manager, both rude. Just awful. Again, another vulnerable person impacted. Also want to add there was zero signage outside Pagazzi stating card only. And nowhere in the shop. Even chatted to staff on shop floor and they didn’t mention it. Only the smallest sign right beside the till.

We’ve just found out that the 3rd bank in Storrington is closing its doors in January. That will leave ONE , which will no doubt follow suit sometime afterwards.
All of the surrounding villages have no banks left either, which means “local banking” has to be carried out in either Worthing or Horsham which are around 11 and 14 miles respectively.
Not a problem for me, as I can drive there, and I have access to all “tech stuff” to carry out my banking on line.
I’m angry because my local branch of Barclays is mainly used by people of more “senior years” than me (I’m 66) who go there to draw out their “weekly £50” or whatever, and to SPEAK to the staff there (who are brilliant with them) explaining all the processes etc.
Speaking to some of them yesterday, they are genuinely worried about how they will continue with they’re normal routines, as transport for some of them is a major issue as well.
Add to that if you were to mention to them what is “I” “T” I know a lot of them would reply ……”it”
It’s not fair these people are being singled out in the relentless March of “progress” ….how can we help them ?.
Speaking to one of the bank staff I was told it’s pointless starting a petition as NO BRANCH of Barclays has EVER had its closure rescinded.
I’ve written to our MP to highlight the issue, and am awaiting a reply, if anyone has any ideas, I’d be keen to hear them
Thanks in advance. Dave

Most banks have an arrangement with the post office so common transactions can be carried out. Storrington seems to offer a comprehensive selection including the withdrawal of cash.

Dave – I wish you well with your petition if you decide to go ahead. Here is a recent report that shows the decline in bank branches over the years: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8570/

Closure of bank branches has not only affected our citizens but small businesses too. One solution would be to have shared bank branches that provide facilities for us all, irrespective of which bank we use. I’m not aware of government pressure to do this.

Post Offices offer a range of basic banking services to personal and business customers of most banks:

Dennis Jones says:
20 October 2021

Cash is the currency of Great Britain, let it remainso


The BoE are considering whether to introduce digital currency, underpinned by the BoE, so very different from Bitcoin. I find it very difficult to get my head around this. When I transfer money from my bank account no physical currency moves – my numbers decrease, some else’s go up. When I use a credit card the same happens. If I get paid, my employer’s bank account balance is reduced and mine goes up.Even when I pay in cash I am just using “tokens” that the ATM issued, decreasing the digits on my bank balance. That all looks like virtual currency to me. It is not like paying in anything useful, trading cabbages for window cleaning.

So just why is a Britcoin adding anything, or is different, to what we already have?

Jason says:
24 October 2021

L have been paying by cash for 51 years not stoping now have not got a phone

Jennifer says:
29 October 2021

My card was cancelled due to fraud on my account. I was told the replacement card would be with me within 10 days. My husband withdraw cash for me to use until my replacement card arrived but on two occasions in the days waiting for my replacement card cash was refused. One of those occasions was at Burger king and another at an independent coffee shop. It is embarrassing to order and then not be able to pay due to companies ridiculous policies.

Clive says:
1 November 2021

Anything that Boris wants means the public should avoid at all costs.
The banks could blackmail us and the government would decide what we spent our money on. Catastrophic!