/ Money

Why we need more than cashback schemes to protect access to cash

Last year government passed legislation that enabled the national rollout of cashback without purchase, but is it enough to protect our access to cash?

In 2021 the government made changes to the law to allow people to request cashback from the till at their local convenience store without needing to make a purchase or pay a fee, while LINK – the UK’s main ATM deployer – recently announced that it was rolling this out to 2,000 shops via PayPoint to support access to cash.

While we welcomed this development deeming it a step forward in the fight to protect access to cash, our latest research suggests more needs to be done to ensure people can withdraw cash in a way that best suits their needs.

In a survey of 2,000 consumers, we found that one in six people (16%) don’t know about the government-backed scheme, while only 3 in ten (31%) of those who said they were aware of it have used it. This equates to just 5% of the UK population. Almost half of the people interviewed (46%) said they were unlikely to use this service.

Of those who were unlikely to use it, a quarter (25%) said it would not be a convenient way to access cash, 17% had concerns over privacy and 16% were worried about security issues. A quarter (25%) of those unlikely to use it said it would feel unfair to the shop or business to handle the cashback service.

Which of these best matches your views of 'cashback at the till' schemes?
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Meeting people’s needs

As our results demonstrate, while cashback without purchase has some serious limitations, and while it can provide a lifeline to consumers in areas where low footfall has led to ATM and bank branch closures, it clearly doesn’t meet all people’s needs for cash.

Considering cashback without purchase is the only tangible action that the government has taken so far to protect access to cash, these results highlight  the need for more to be done to ensure people can continue to access cash via a range of mechanisms that best suit their needs.

The announced legislation protecting people’s access to cash in the March 2020 Budget still hasn’t been introduced, despite the cash infrastructure being put under unprecedented strain as a result of the pandemic. 

Bank closures in Scotland

Yesterday, we highlighted the need for legislation in Parliament with Which?’s Head of External Affairs and Campaigns, Rich Piggin, giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Parliamentary Select Committee on access to cash.

Here, he outlined the sheer number of ATM and bank branch closures that have taken place in Scotland, and the UK more generally, over the last few years, and complete lack of protections for consumers to ensure those who depend on cash can continue to access it. 


Tell us more about your experience of cashback without purchase in the comments. Have you withdrawn cash this way recently, and if so, what did you think?

William Taylor says:
15 February 2022

We have banked with Santander for many years, even when it was the Alliance. Now they have closed all the local branches with accessible parking. The only branches left are in busy towns with car parks too far away for us to use as my Wife had a stroke and cannot walk far.

Michelle Simcock says:
16 February 2022

It Really is coming to something when you have to hunt for our own Cash! Not all of us are technically capable like me! I can’t understand its like most people 😕 nowadays do have technical knowledge about it all! Think of all the sick people who and elderly! Come to think of it! All of us have to suffer with all this sudden changes I can’t believe or understand unfortunately how bad these days really are! Mainly for my sons generation there are whizzes on network, but don’t forget us too! No wonder suicide rates are shooting through the roof! I’m already annoyed how checkouts changed!! Not a good idea! When we all stand there when guaranteed something is going to go wrong 😕 now cash machines are getting lesser by the minute 😳 😒 none of us will stand for it!… Michelle Simcock

Which? comments on fewer people living near banks and building societies
”While many people now choose to bank digitally, others – including the most vulnerable – are not yet ready to take that step. The banking industry’s proposals to protect access to cash must keep them in mind.”.

Access to cash has been significantly improved through the banks’ arrangements with 11500 post offices and, initially, 2000 retailers in the cash without purchase scheme.

What is needed is more venues where other banking services can be accessed. Let’s hope the banking hub scheme will expand and fill that need. https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/press/press-releases/senior-appointments-made-take-banking-hubs-forward