/ Money

Protect cash: your views from our week of action

Which? CEO Anabel Hoult drops off the comments submitted to Which? Conversation to No 10 Downing Street

Last week we asked for your views on whether the government should protect cash in its budget. Here’s what you had to say.

On Wednesday 26 February, we published our CEO’s letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, asking him to save bank branches and ATMs across the country.

You sent a very clear message: the government should protect cash in its next budget.

Do you feel that the Government should make sure cash is protected in the next budget?

Yes (100%, 2,739 Votes)

No (0%, 12 Votes)

Not sure (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,752

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You responded in droves. More than 7,000 people tweeted their views using #ProtectCash, including nine MPs.

Here on Which? Conversation, we welcomed the views from more than 550 people on Wednesday alone.

We printed your comments – just over 1000 pages of A4 and bound together in what we call the Book of Cash – and delivered them in a special suitcase to Downing Street.

Why we should protect cash

We heard many stories of why cash is, for many, essential to daily life:

Many argued that, simply put, cash is a way of life:

Old habits die hard, but if they’re good habits, why change them?!

Hannah Biard (via email)

Many noted how important it was to have a tangible way to pay:

Many apparently simple day to day activities including small purchases, club membership and activities, security against breakdown of card machines, charity collections and spontaneous gifts or tips, and don’t forget the simple need of coins in the ladies loo.

Gillian Badcock

I prefer to use cash for all daily transactions as it is easier to keep track of what I spend and what is available in my bank account as a carer to my disabled son and partner money tracking is very important to me

Julie-Anne Morgan

Technology was a popular theme, with many noting how the infrastructure simply was not up to standard for a purely digital economy:

We must never be put in a position where we cannot continue the essential transactions of life such as food just because technology has failed.

D Searle

Without cash, how can people pay in the many areas such as North Yorkshire without WiFi and poor or non-existent mobile service?

Kevin clark

…not to mention increasing risk of fraud or scams….

…and making it harder to access for people who might struggle to, or might choose not to, engage with electronic forms of payment.

We are in our late 70s and frequently need access to cash…. We don’t use cash points and draw cash from our bank. As we get older we may have problems using technology and credit cards so cash will be essential for us.

Carole Browne

Closures and thievery

Several of you shared stories of how literally important it was to protect access to cash:

My mums village bank was ram raided several times so now closed and shut …she’s 87 ….so to visit a bank in Cambridge centre means a taxi ride which is expensive in its own right …..

Sarah Pollard Gregory (via Facebook)

An inclusive envrionment 

Others took a different view in that it’s less about cash, more about the environment in which cash is useful.

Community regular alfa argued that cash’s value is through universal acceptance

Cash is only required where it can be spent, so instead of demanding access to cash, perhaps more protection should be given to where it can be spent.

Make sure cash is accepted everywhere – in all car parks, all stores especially supermarkets, all pubs and eating places.


Or could it be that this reliance on cash is only because digital payments aren’t yet universal?

…if the user could reliably use contactless it would be easier for them. It seems to me the examples given show cash is still currently needed because the person/business receiving the money only accepts cash.

Tony Who

How do these land with you? How does your environment and the businesses near you influence how you choose to pay? Let us know in the comments below.

What’s next?

The Chancellor has confirmed that the new Budget will take place on Wednesday, 11 March.

Which? will be reporting on what’s announced in full, including whether or not the government will honour its commitment to protecting cash.

Thank you to everyone who shared their views on the future of cash with us.

We’ll continue talking about having access to cash and having the freedom to pay your way here on Which? Conversation.


I posted this elsewhere before I saw this new Convo:

Most of the requests to Link for new ATMs have been as a result of publicity by Which: “LINK is committed to protecting free access to cash for as long as consumers want it. The new Community Request an ATM Initiative has had 3,400 ATM requests. Almost 3,000 of these requests have been made via Which? and just under 1% of the total came from elected representatives, with the rest from members of the public or site owners.” https://www.link.co.uk/media/1593/monthly-report-feb-2020-final.pdf

Unless you pay with exactly the right change, cash is a very unhygienic way to pay, as the change will be covered in other people’s germs. Chip & PIN is also unhygienic, as PIN pads get covered in germs, particularly the green button. Physical contactless cards work only up to £30 and periodically require a PIN. The most hygienic ways to pay, particularly for amounts over £30, are Apple Pay and Google Pay. The elderly, who are at greater risk of death from coronavirus, need to consider these factors before the virus spreads throughout the UK, which is only a question of when, not if.

At present we do not know much about the risk of transferring coronavirus by handling or touching items around us.

As a frequent flyer I assume that you are grounded for the foreseeable future.

No, I am not avoiding international travel, because the risks are low. The highest risk is crowded public transport in London, and I am amazed at how many people continue to hold handrails in Tube and DLR carriages, even when they are leaning against a vertical surface and don’t need to do so. These handrails are infested with germs. I am also disappointed by how many people at work do not wash their hands properly, often dangling the fingers of one hand under the tap for two seconds and again under the dryer for two seconds. They then touch door handles and lift buttons etc, spreading their germs to other workers.

A year after the Access to Cash Review was published, the group responsible published this press release: https://www.accesstocash.org.uk/media/1168/press-release-one-year-on-a2c-final.pdf The need for legislation is made clear:

“Our current legislation doesn’t protect people and communities from being left behind. The government needs to act.

• It is fast becoming clear that our current legislation is inadequate.

• The UK regulators have no legal power to require banks to give their customers appropriate cash
access, and shops the ability to deposit cash. If the current voluntary arrangements stop, then there is nothing they can do. To rely on commercial companies to maintain universal cash access when they face pressures from shareholders to cut costs would be naïve.

• Some of the ‘solutions’ that would help, such as allowing consumers to get cashback more widely without having to make a purchase, cannot be done under current UK law

• We need legislation now to ensure that, as the UK goes increasingly digital, we don’t leave millions of people behind.”

A Which? press release:

Which? response to chancellor protecting access to cash at the Budget
7 March 2020
Anabel Hoult, CEO of Which?, said:

“Which? urged the chancellor to protect cash in this Budget, so we are delighted that he has listened to consumers and is ready to legislate to help millions of people who have been hit hard by bank branch and cash machine closures.

“We know that the cash system faces irreversible damage within the next two years, so we look forward to working with the government, regulators and industry to ensure this commitment is swiftly turned into action that protects cash for as long as it is needed.”

Time to put the needs of (some of) the citizens of this country ahead of the wishes of the banks.

[Moderator: this comment was removed as it did not adhere to Community guidelines. Please make sure your comment is factually accurate and on topic to the discussion to which you are posting.]

That is an interesting twist on the need to protect access to cash in the UK but I am afraid your comment is historically and factually inaccurate on many points. The UK Parliament has recently endorsed legislative measures to protect access to cash for the benefit of the ordinary men and women of this country.

Great to hear cash is to be protected. Too many people run into debt because they can’t be bothered to keep track of their spending on credit cards.
Out of interest, I believe card suppliers charge a fee on transactions therefor they must be making a huge profit since at the moment many people are using their cards for hygienic safety reasons. I wonder if there is any chance they will reduce those charges to help in this crisis?

It is now illegal to charge the customer extra for paying by card but the charges paid by the retailer will be passed on to customers in higher prices, which we all pay, even if using cash. 🙁

Using a credit card for to pay for goods and services costing over £100 gives consumers protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, for example if you are let down by a retailer or they go bust.

It’s good to take precautions during the current pandemic but I wonder if there will ever be any proven cases of Covid-19 as a result of touching the buttons of an ATM or chip & pin machine.

Wishful thinking, perhaps, but I read recently that if cash is tendered for a purchase and declined the debt is cancelled, that being the basis of ‘legal tender’. Is there any truth in that? I cannot believe it would give the customer freedom to walk out with the goods without paying.

A trader who does not accept cash would presumably have to make that clear in a notice clearly displayed.

I thought ‘legal tender’ worked the other way round and was to stop people using large quantities of low value coins to pay for something [like a parking fine, for example].

From the B of E’s site:

“A shop owner can choose what payment they accept. If you want to pay for a pack of gum with a £50 note, it’s perfectly legal to turn you down. Likewise for all other banknotes, it’s a matter of discretion. If your local corner shop decided to only accept payments in Pokémon cards that would be within their right too. But they’d probably lose customers.

Legal tender has a narrow technical meaning which has no use in everyday life. It means that if you offer to fully pay off a debt to someone in legal tender, they can’t sue you for failing to repay.

So what’s actually classed as legal tender?

What’s classed as legal tender varies throughout the UK. In England and Wales, it’s Royal Mint coins and Bank of England notes. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it’s only Royal Mint coins and not banknotes.

There are also some restrictions when using small coins. For example, 1p and 2p coins only count as legal tender for any amount up to 20p.

Many common and safe payment methods such as cheques, debit cards and contactless aren’t legal tender. But again, it makes no difference in everyday life.”

So it does seem that if you- offer the right amount in Royal Mint coins and Bank of England notes and it’s rejected the other party can’t sue you for redress.

Thanks, Ian – it doesn’t mean taking things without paying for them though, which some might wish for.

If the shopkeeper won’t take cash and you have no other means of paying then you can’t buy.