/ Money

Cash Summit: Securing our Freedom to Pay

We’re today hosting a follow-up summit to ensure cash remains a viable method of payment. We’re also launching our Cash Friendly Pledge – here’s how it works.

15/12/21: UK Finance proposals

Today, UK Finance launched proposals to support people’s access to cash. The solutions were achieved by the Access to Cash Action Group (CAG) created ahead of our Cash Summit in May, in which UK Finance Chief Executive David Postings made a series of commitments to enduring people can continue to access cash.

We welcome these proposals, but we believe that only legislation can secure cash’s future. Last week we called on banks to pause branch closures until new/alternative solutions to support access take effect.

We’ll be watching closely to see how the measures are working, and prevent communities from being cut adrift.

13/05/21: Post-meeting update

At today’s Cash Summit we were delighted to hear Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen confirm that a consultation on cash legislation will be launched in the Summer. This is an extremely positive development towards getting these critical long term protections introduced.

The government must deliver at pace on it’s promises, or risk leaving the cash system vulnerable to further damage. 

We also heard about UK Finance’s commitment to protecting access to cash, and the launch of its new Cash Action Group, which will be led by Access to Cash Review Chair, Natalie Ceeney, in addition to renewed commitments from the Post Office and major banks to supporting the provision of cash access for consumers.

While we welcome and support efforts from across the cash system to make progress on this issue, we are clear that voluntary initiatives or public commitments can not replace government or regulatory oversight. 

We now need a firm commitment from the Treasury on when this legislation to protect cash will be introduced, as the system will continue to be under enormous pressure until it is brought forward. 

Cash summit

Two years on from our first Cash Summit, we’re bringing together key figures from across government, regulators and the payments industry again to cover the challenges, following the outbreak of the pandemic, as well as the potential solutions, to ensuring cash can remain a viable method of payment for those with no other option.

Now is a critical juncture in the fight to protect access to cash. Despite the government’s commitment to legislation in last year’s Budget, this has still not been introduced, and we remain deeply concerned at the slow rate of progress in getting these protections agreed and in place.

Today, our Chief Executive Anabel Hoult will be calling on the government to set out when legislation to protect access to cash will be brought forward, and to provide greater clarity about its long term plan to ensure that the millions still reliant on cash can continue to access it as the shift to digital intensifies.

The event will include speeches and contributions from Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen, FCA Executive Director of Consumers and Competition Sheldon Mills, Natalie Ceeney, who chaired the powerful Access to Cash review, Matt Hammerstein, CEO of Barclays, Jeni Mundy, MD of Visa UK & Ireland, David Postings, CEO of UK Finance and Nick Butt, Head of the Future Money Division at the Bank of England. 

Our Cash Friendly Pledge

To coincide with our event, we’re also launching our Cash Friendly Pledge, working with some of the biggest names in retail to protect people’s ability to spend cash.

The pandemic has undoubtedly had a dramatic impact on the way we access and spend cash. While many people have successfully made the jump to digital payments, enjoying the convenience and speed that cards and contactless can offer, there still remain millions of consumers who rely on cash.

In fact, our recent research found that 2.5 million people depend on cash for every transaction, while 10 million people say they are unready, or unable, to give it up. 

However, with more people shopping online and concerns that cash is unsafe to handle – which have since been debunked by the Bank of England – some businesses have discouraged the use of cash over card, or gone completely cashless altogether, leaving millions shut out from buying the things they need.

Late last year we found around one in three consumers had reported being unable to pay with cash at least once when trying to buy something since coronavirus restrictions were first introduced, including even essentials like food and medicine. 

That’s where our Cash Friendly Pledge comes in: a public commitment from businesses that they’re accepting cash as a payment method across their stores.

Who’s taken the pledge?

So far, we’ve seen some of the biggest supermarkets and pharmacies take our Pledge, including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, John Lewis, LloydsPharmacy and Waitrose. What’s more, we’ve also been backed by leading retail associations that represent tens of thousands of shops across the country.

The British Retail Consortium, Association of Convenience Stores and the British Independent Retailers Association are all encouraging their members to sign up. The Bank of England has said that by signing up “businesses are helping to ensure that everyone in the UK is able to use the form of payment that best meets their needs”.

You can find out more about the pledge and see the full list of businesses involved here.

Additionally, we’ve supplied retailers with Cash Friendly Logos which they can use to signpost their cash accepting status in store and online, ensuring consumers feel confident that their cash won’t be rejected at the till. 

Which businesses would you like to see take the pledge? Let us know if you’ve spotted the logos while out and about and help us ensure that cash remains a viable payment method.


This is very encouraging. I believe that the current pandemic has been used to discourage use of cash. I have yet to see any evidence that coronavirus has infected anyone as a result of handling cash.

There was a piece on our regional BBC news programme the other evening when a representative from Norfolk County Council Trading Standards Service answered questions on scams and how to avoid them. A viewer had raised the question of on-line auction sites where payments backfired and sellers were left unpaid. The TS representative advised that various payment methods were available but some were more secure than others and that, for face-to-face trades, cash in the hand was by far the safest option.

I am currently selling an item of furniture on Gumtree and stipulating that cash on the nail will be required. That might put some people off but in my experience if people want something badly enough they will find a way to procure it.

If “2.5 million people depend on cash for every transaction, while 10 million people say they are unready, or unable, to give it up”, that’s getting on for half the adult population not in prison or an institution – and the other half probably get their spouse or partner to pay for everything.

There is an appalling bit of phraseology at the end of the fourth paragraph of the Intro. I appreciate the sentiment, and note that on this occasion the fan has been avoided in the metaphor, but it would benefit greatly from amendment.

Well that was embarrassing – thanks for pointing it out. It would appear shift happens.

Interesting it was not sh*t as would happen to we mere mortals. Moderators’ day off?

I am really unconvinced that there is some conspiracy to deny us using cash. The pandemic made online purchasing far more used when, clearly, cash was not the option. But when I occasionally ventured out I never met a refusal to accept cash (to be fair I generally use my credit card). so reduced use of cash was a consequence of the pandemic, but not discouraged by it in the main.

The statement one in three have been refused the ability pay in cash at least once is, in my view, one of these wholly misleading Which? statements when they want to generate publicity. As far as I remember that was over a large part of a year. So one in three people visited a shop and once in the year they could not pay in cash. That tells us virtually nothing and is hardly headlines – unless you want to generate them. Maybe I have got it wrong? If not, let’s present a balanced argument.

Em says:
16 May 2021

I can only guess at what I’ve missed, but other **its remain:

“The government must deliver at pace on it’s promises, … “

The possessive pronoun “its” does not require an apostrophe.

I blame working from home, Em. Sub-editing is a major casualty and it’s cropping up everywhere in Which?’s output. It’s not alone though, most on-line and print media is riddled with errors.

David says:
8 July 2021

Oh no, not the great apostrophe debate! At least it’s in the right place…….or is it😂

george says:
16 August 2021

I went to Bournemouth last week, I am 85 and only deal in cash . I tried to go for a walk along the pier but could not as they would not accept the coin of the realm, I asked why, they said that the council ruled that they could only accept card payments and it was the same for most traders along the front.I emailed the Mayor to complain but have hade no answer

I object to being forced to use my card for payments in shops ,it is much easier to keep track of your spending if you are using cash. Many of us have to budget and putting cash aside for various bills etc let’s us see immediately how we are managing to pay bills each week and what we have left over.
Cash has been used for a very long time and using the pandemic to force the elimination of cash is actually bad for all of us,
How do we teach youngsters to save their pocket money, my Grandsons like to see the actual coins in their money boxes I don’t think a card would work in the same way !,
It’s how I and countless generations were taught to save and learnt how to manage our money .

I disagree that it’s easier to keep track of your spending if you are using cash. It’s the opposite. An electronic balance is much easier than having to count up notes and coins.

I suppose it depends what you are accustomed to.

I would be interested to know if there is any way of accepting electronic payments in an area with no reliable mobile phone network. If not I expect I will soon be back to dealing with a bucket of cash donations, sometimes in excess of £200. At least the larger payments are usually by cheque. 🙁

If you have cash in your wallet you can only spend what you have, so it is limited. But no automatic record of what you have spent it on. A plus and a minus. If you have a card you can spend as much as you like (the limit is much higher than your wallet could hold) but each month you receive a statement showing who you spent your money with (but not what it was on). So a minus and a plus.

It depends what is meant by keeping track of your spending. The card wins but allows you to spend more than might be prudent.

Sadly, I keep a little book and keep a record of all that I spend, whether it is card or cash or transfer. I use that to create an annual budget to match income and expenditure.

My bank app lets me see the balance of my current account in approximately three seconds and with a couple of clicks I can see the transactions listed, including pending ones. The credit card app takes slightly longer but not much. On the computer I can download transactions within the last seven years and put them in a spreadsheet if I wish.

When I was using cash regularly, a thin wallet prompted me to visit an ATM. My last visit was the withdrawal of £120 on 11 March 2020 and since then my wallet has gathered dust thanks to the pandemic.

I think we should all be able to choose whether we use cash, electronic transactions or both. I’m not sure what happened to tapping phones together to pay a friend. That would be useful when paying £2 when attending an event run by a society.

I do keep a record of major purchases and keep receipts for insurance purposes. I check my account to cross check that income matches my record of interest and dividends, but otherwise I don’t pay much attention to day to day expenditure.

I think the best way to teach youngsters how to manage money is to get them savings accounts with debit cards. Then they can learn to use phone apps to manage their money. They will also be able to learn about Internet shopping, as well as handling cash.

I agree. I hope that most parents would take that approach rather than inflicting their personal preferences on their children.

As long as they keep buying up-to-date phones to keep them secure?
Children need to be helped to look after heir money, spend wisely and not just see the internet as an easy way to spend indiscriminately.
Inflict personal preferences on children? Those who have had children will know they have minds of their own and, in my experience, do not normally respond to being inflicted. But they do respond to good example, and to being given advice to consider. It sets them up better as they gain independence.

malcolm – really! No fashion conscious child will want to be seen out and about with anything less than the latest model iPhone (insured, of course, against loss or damage, on a new for old basis, by mum and dad).

Without a credit card, it becomes much harder to spend indiscriminately on the internet – or elsewhere.

Fashion conscious child” . . . says it all really, doesn’t it?

Our place in society used to be governed by intelligence or capability in one form or another, not our kit. I blame influencers who promote Envy and Avarice.

It used to be called keeping up with the Jones’s. Now it’s peer pressure.

Peer pressure is alive and well in the older generation. The young lad along the road has a Vauxhall Corsa with an L-plate but his parents have an Aston Martin and a Range Rover. Maybe the family name is Jones.

Still at least parents can get some respite by going out unaccompanied, once their kids start refusing to seen out with them.

If I had sufficient disposable income I might well buy a Bentley ( but not drive it too many miles to help the environment) and have it fitted with a bean to cup coffee machine.

The accelerated shift from cash to cards, caused by the pandemic, has finally pushed the minority of stubbornly cash-only businesses to finally accept cards. I greatly welcome this. But I also believe that essential businesses, for example supermarkets, should be required to accept cash. Non-essential businesses should be free to refuse cash, particularly as many small businesses don’t have the infrastructure to handle cash securely and cheaply.

Forcing us to use cards is another way the banks take control of our finances, including businesses. they pay a fee for accepting cards. A fledgling business has an added financial cost if they take card. Also banks can witdraw the privilege at any time. Branches closing across the country taking their ATM machines leave privateATM,s charging us for our own money.
Banks are not our friends. The sooner we all realise that the better. Just look at PPI. In 2008 it was the greedy bankers that caused a recession
Cash is freedom. It does not rely on a system that may drop out, power cuts, bad programming (see post office) or scamming. When one spends cash, neither the banks, shops, or institutions are involved.

Jill Bland says:
14 May 2021

keep cash payments, not all of us have money to spend in banks, only for bills by direct debit, you would n’t have any left in to pay important bills first

Jill Bland says:
14 May 2021

keep cash payments, not all of us have money to spend in banks, only for bills by direct debit, you would n’t have any left in to pay important bills first

Christopher Wingfield says:
14 May 2021

Thank you for this Which? “cash” update. But why are we presented with a black fist image? We’re not used to encountering symbols of aggression from Which? What is its relevance? I don’t like it!

Thanks for your feedback Christopher. The image of the hand we use in the Freedom to Pay Campaign is actually a white outline set against a purple background, and is designed to speak to the urgency needed to protect the cash infrastructure as an option for consumers to use which is called for in the campaign.

We’ve used this image since the campaign’s launch in 2019 and haven’t had any other feedback about it being considered aggressive. I’ve passed your feedback on to the campaigns team though, and we’ll keep it in mind for any future designs on this and other Which? campaigns.

It is a bit reminiscent of the BLM power fist emblem. Maybe an open palm with some banknotes on it would be a more acceptable image?

This is the image Christopher refers to and he is quite right about the design. The white outline is dominated by a black fist. It doesn’t bother me but maybe a less symbolic image could be used.
Is it depicting John Glen about to receive a punch on the chin?

If you lighten the scene to the max, the fist appears to be purple – admittedly a very dark shade of purple!

I think all scammers should be sent to prison 🤔for a very long time

There seems to be a bewildering number of alternatives to cash and it is difficult to keep up. Debit cards, credit cards, prepaid cards, ApplePay, PayPal etc. A society that I’m involved with is moving into e-commerce and it has been suggested we take payments for membership and merchandise using Stripe – whatever that is.

With cash we get the full amount, whereas the alternatives involve fees.

……and bitcoins. I wish I understood how they work (perhaps I’m better off not knowing)..

Apparently they are dirty and a Mr Musk will not let you buy a Tesla motor car with them.

Helen says:
16 May 2021

The reason some retailers, locally, are not accepting cash is that the banks are only open from 10a.m. until 2p.m. thus making it hard for them either to lodge cash or keep a float in the till. The banks need to get back to normal opening hours.

Lord Odin says:
21 May 2021

I believe we all need to progress and evolve, but the move to digital for a great many people is stressful and fraught with danger from scammers. It would help all concerned if the companies concerned were to employ good help stations with people who know how to deal with our concerns. Being told to google it up, or look at a list of frequently asked questions is not really helping to calm those worries. I suppose the cost is too much for these companies that now have us trapped in their systems.

Banks should supply their customers with far greater security than they are, free of charge. Aside from scam warnings. They are simply not doing enough to protect customers investments and are not doing enough to question unusual transactions. Blaming customers who make innocent errors due to the onslaught of scammers each day. Banking Protocol is there to protect customers, not defend.

Remember! Banks are simply BIG BUSINESS and only operate in their own best interest/s.

Ann says:
26 May 2021

I am trying desperately hard not to go digital with my banking. I just do not trust the banks to protect my money or information securely enough. The move to digital is made out to be more convenient for the customer. I think not! More convenient and cheaper for banks who are too backwards in coming forwards when customers become victims of fraud.

26 May 2021

I tried for a long time to not go digital with banking due to fear of fraud. However, once my bank closed 5 out of the 6 local bank branches in my area of London making going to the bank a nightmare, I took the plunge and went online. It has been fine with the bank checking account details for recipient match the correct name of that account and I have had no problems and have to admit to being relieved I had online banking during Covid pandemic. My one complaint would be that I feel all banks when they close branches, with more people therefore going for online banking, the banks should have a lot more staff manning the phones in the fraud department 24 hours a day in case of fraud queries. My bank for instance closes its fraud department at 8pm and getting hold of them if fraud occurs is apparently a nightmare taking hours.

But the bank is already digital. In theory your account could be hacked and you wouldn’t know. If you have an online account it is no more at risk unless YOU give away the security details. What’s more you can check your account 24/7 and put a stop on anything dodgy much quicker. It’s a fallacy that going digital is a bigger personal risk.

Ray says:
26 May 2021

The banks have been very much the prime mover to get us all using online banking, these days it’s difficult not to use it. However, they are absolutely diabolical when it comes to security and backing up their own customers. Would like to take my business elsewhere, but they are all the same, they don’t care.

We are still are being pushed to use online banking, whilst banks are being closed.
So online scamming is their problem, not the customers.
Cutting out cash gives scammers an even bigger pond in which to fish.
No such problems with cash. Just beware of pickpockets and heavy drinking. Because the one thing I can guarantee is you will not get your cash back !

jefrevhenke says:
26 May 2021

I’ve noticed Tesco recently have started having only one till taking cash…using covid conveniently as an excuse. Geoff Devon

Madeleine says:
26 May 2021

High street Banks…, I cannot use the online facilities for medical reasons, focal sensitive epilepsy – which also mean I cannot really shop online without another person, as I pass out after 20 mins of screen time ( the refresh rate .., added to that , all the giffys, moving flashing adverts.., are like , worse than
A 15 sec. warning for a tv footage or film which at least states these images and camera flash fotograhpy may cause an epileptic seizure- which causes neurological deficiencies post viewing , depression and potentially death-
Rare forms of epilepsy and also in children …, need I say more.
Analogue black and white tv was always better for cranial damage too! As is going to a bank face to face contact when budgeting 😘