/ Money

Freedom to Pay: what’s next?

Our Cash Summit brought together everyone who’s anyone in banking and finance. Now, we’re discussing what’s next for our Freedom to Pay campaign.

09/10/2019: Update

Today, we’ve revealed the effect of widespread cash machine closures, which have left many rural communities with long journeys to make free withdrawals, and some struggling to access cash at all.

Meanwhile, Barclays’ shocking decision to stop customers being able to withdraw cash from the Post Office from 8 January 2020 has exposed the fragility of the UK’s cash system, and blows apart industry claims that the Post Office network is a solution to the cash crisis.

The Government must step in and introduce legislation that guarantees consumers can continue to access and pay with cash for as long as it is needed. Do you agree?

17/06/2019: Freedom to Pay: what’s next?

In May, we welcomed the government’s unprecedented commitment to ensuring cash continues to be available to those who need it. Our supporters helped make this an issue that no-one could ignore.

The announcement showed that the government has heard us, and will now lead a new group to reduce the barriers people face when accessing cash.

Here are three of the biggest events and meetings we had last week to support our campaign:

1. Our Cash Summit

We hosted a Cash Summit with over 140 attendees talking about what’s needed to ensure people have the freedom to pay in whatever way suits their needs.

This included conversations about how to protect cash while it’s still needed, and actions businesses and the government can take to support people as they transition towards digital payments.

The event included speeches from Gwyneth Nurse the Director of Financial Services at the Treasury, Natalie Ceeney, who chaired the powerful Access to Cash review, the Managing Director of the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) Chris Hemsley and our CEO Anabel Hoult.

Joel Hills from ITV news hosted a panel discussion featuring Jenni Allen the Content Director at Which?, Natalie Ceeney, Martin McTague the Policy and Advocacy Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, John Hutton the Director of Payments at Nationwide and Mark Barnett the UK President of Mastercard.

Check out our Twitter hashtag to see more about the points that were discussed.

We know that some people choose not to use cash, but we believe that it remains a vital back up for everyone when systems fail. On the day of the summit we launched new research showing that 7 million people experienced an outage in the last year which prevented them using their debit or credit card.

We also discovered that one in ten people affected by an outage suffered a financial penalty, such as a late payment fee. The same proportion said their credit score was damaged because they failed to pay a bill on time. This received coverage across national and local media.

2. The Welsh Assembly

As Thomas Docherty explained last week, we gave evidence to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills committee for their inquiry into Access to Banking Services in Wales.

We highlighted the impact of bank closures across the nation, and that many Welsh people struggle to access online banking services due to poor connectivity.

We called on the Welsh Government to support our calls on the UK government to introduce a statutory duty and to do more to improve internet and phone signal across Wales.

3. The Scottish Affairs Committee

The Scottish Affairs Committee in Westminster questioned the Minister John Glen MP, and representatives from the Post Office, as part of their Access to Financial Services inquiry.

The inquiry has been running for three months and we gave our evidence in March. We know that some people in Scotland have fewer payment options due to poor connectivity, the country losing over a third of its bank branches in eight years and regular cashpoint closures.

The Committee has strongly supported our campaign calls, and today asked the Minister to respond. This activity in the Westminster Parliament continues to apply pressure to the UK government to take urgent action. You can watch the session here.

What’s next?

Our campaign is far from over. We’re continuing to apply pressure to the government and the regulators to ensure they deliver on their promise, and the last week shows just how much we’ve got going on to help make this happen.

We’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s supported us so far, and for your contributions to previous topics here on Which? Conversation.

Did you welcome the government’s commitment to protecting access to cash? Do you feel supported by your bank as digital payments become more and more common?

Sue Farebrother says:
26 February 2020

I believe that the growing current trend for swiping your debit card for small purchases to be a dangerous one, and I never do it. I would rather pay cash for small purchases (no risks), but if I do use a debit card I use my PIN in the little machine. Why is it dangerous? I am amazed that British banks are not just allowing swiping but encouraging it. Because it is so easy for criminals to copy your card even if carried in your bag or pocket, using fairly simple equipment; or if your card is stolen it can be used with little restriction or need for ID to spend up to £30 per purchase in various venues up to a certain limit in total. (Not sure if this is £200 in a day or a bit more). This has happened to me so I know.
I am 100% certain that I want cash to stay for the foreseeable future. I can’t use my card to give money to a homeless person. I prefer to give cash in a restaurant as a tip as I am as sure as possible that the staff will actually get the money. I pay for small amounts of goods in local shops in real money (like a newspaper or milk etc) and I collect my small coins in a dedicated jar that adds them up as a neat way to save – have bought several nice things – and changed the coins into notes at my bank’s free machine) – once the total reaches above £50. Incidentally, my bank, Metro, will not take the chip off my debit card which I have asked them to do several times.
Please do not get rid of cash!

Cash means a lot, a) for the country as a whole it is a sign of our sovreignty, b) for law and order fighting digital crime it is more difficult to scam someone of their cash or defraud them, c) for individuals it means freedom and independence to do what you want!
I still want to purchase an ice cream for cash at the seaside, I want to see delight in someones eyes as they are given cash as a present and I still want to feel a pound in my pocket and NOT to be beholden to the Banks, who just want to make money. Arn’t they supposed to provide customer service or are we supposed to be subservient to them?

Who in there right mind wants to pay for small purchases by card, once the bank have all the access to your money all your transactions will be charged, taking more of your hard earned money ,you will have no say in it. It’s part of our heritage. you have no concept of what you have using cards . Another way of spying on us as to what we buy or what we do we are suppose to be a free society (I don’t think so ) wake up and smell the roses.

No really.
Break your promise to protect cash. Go on. Do it.
It’ll be a huge banana skin, and a giant vote getter for the opposition next time round.
Sadly for us, and miserably for you, few will disagree that pointing this out will probably influence you more than the decent, humanitarian, and responsible reasons offered by others on this site.

Mary-Teresa Callaghan-Sheppard says:
27 February 2020

So what happens when all the ATMs and the electronic banking system is hit by a virus or something like Wanacry, which hit hospitals, Barclays etc. So much for a cashless society. There is a place for both. Plus this will be a back of the door way to increase prices, that elusive £1.99 will suddenly turn to £2.00, not £1.98…………………… I am all for change and technology but this is just a step too far. Lots of people live on the breadline……………… how are they going to manage without cash being available.

Most of us depend on bank computers and cards and ATMs – without them we have no access to cash. I think it is good that Which? is campaigning to get the Government to protect access to cash for everyone.

Given that modern banks must use computers, they must also make adequately security arrangements to protect their facilities from cyber criminals and to ensure the reliability and availability of their systems. In general, I think they do a pretty good job. Many of the scams that we discuss here on Which? Conversation show that humans are often the weakest link in banks’ security arrangements. Hence many of these scams aim to con bank customers into authorising payments for non-existent goods or or services and such like. Users of cash have always been vulnerable to similar scams. For example, after recent storms, they has been a spate of door-to-door selling by cowboy roofers.

norman greenhalgh says:
27 February 2020

Cashless society, another tool of many to control and take away freedoms as depicted in Orwell’s 1984 !
Wake up people, stop the tyranny.

There are politicians and establishment figures, past and present that should be arrested for tyranny, instead they make £millions on the backs of their tyranny, no names mentioned, many of us know who they are, but when speaking out get labelled conspiracy theorist’s.

Julian Assange should not be in jail but is, while war criminal’s / bankster’s and their ilk prosper.

27 February 2020

Quite a few Post offices have closed for some years and those whcih are open have long queues. Cash machines are most useful specially in small villages

Our village Post Office is well used as most of the POs in adjacent villages are closed. Cash is necessary in remoter areas to pay for services from local tradesmen. We have an ATM in the Co-op, but it runs out of money. The only reliabe way of obtainng cash is through the PO. To get to a bank from home is a 40 to 60 minute round-trip. It can take up to 20 mins to find somewhere to park. There is usually a queue at the bank. Broadband speeds are slow and the mobile phone signal uncertain. Both are unreliable. I do not think this situation is unusual in many rural areas. Without reasonable access to cash life would becomeb much nore difficult.

Julie says:
27 February 2020

The thought of a cash less society is scary. What happens when the systems fail? And let’s face it they will the banks are not held to account as it is. The Government has shown it’s commitment to the public by introducing austerity.

What about freedom of choice!
Also I think it’s far more tempting to overspend when using a card sometimes I forget things I’ve used it for but with cash I know exactly what I can afford to spend.

D Bryson says:
28 February 2020

I want the government to #ProtectCash at the next budget because I use cash almost everyday to pay for small items and going to groups and clubs wher a weekly fee is paid.
Not only that but those with no access to bank accounts, children’s pocket money………the list
goes on.
Cashless Sweden a disaster also.

Both my local bank and building society branches closed some time ago, I live to the West of Windsor town, where parking can be a nightmare due to tourists, my local FREE cash machine at Tesco is a godsend for someone my age 83 as trying to get into Windsor can be a real problem, using public transport can consume almost 1/2 a day, so driving would be the only real alternative, but then finding nowhere to park!

Agree with many other writers that cash is essential because having tried to use a credit card to pay for parking recently as I had forgotten my purse containing cash which was my normal method for paying for parking, proved to be a nightmare. I simply could not get through to the parking site using my mobile. I had to drive home instead and return with cash. I need cash for small item purchases and quite right, using cash makes you monitor money outflow more carefully. I too like to give cash as a gift especially for special occasions and see the delight in the face of the recipient I noticed only yesterday, one building society suggesting using their APP to round up loose change on purchases to place into your savings account with them. A sure way of not having sufficient funds to pay other bills and for them to take ownership of your money especially as you may wish to save with another source. Anyway, why should BIG BROTHER know exactly just how people are using their money. Put simply, using cash should be a choice. For some and myself included, it helps in knowing just how much cash I may have left after my usual bills have been made via DD. Credit cards can then be used for large expensive home items or holidays as they offer protection but the bill must be paid by the deadline date. If they are used for every item purchased, it requires vigilance in keeping records of how much has been spent otherwise people can quickly be in debt due to accidental overspending and as we are aware, people are charged high levels of interest while paying off credit card bills.

Peter Smith says:
28 February 2020

Cash is a vital commodity for local shopping in local shops as well as payments for metro and bus travel for elderly people who do not handle debit cards easily having been brought up on cash.

john robinson says:
28 February 2020

another nail in the coffin for the high street if cash goes, and how will tourists from outside the uk get on if cash goes,

It will also be the first plank in the coffin of the UK tourism industry which has been on a rising curve lately.

I tend to use cash when shopping and steer away from shops who refuse to accept cash. My 93 year old mother does not use card payments at all as she cannot physically use the machines and solely uses cash only – what is she to do? Of course the banks will be sitting smug in their London and Hong Kong offices – they will be quite happy to look after and sometimes squander our money but are equally happy to deny us using it as cash. Pull the ladder up Jack I’m alright! comes to mind. A service industry? What a joke! I allow them to use my money whilst it is in their care so I expect some sort of reward for that – cash please when I want it and to be allowed to spend it as I wish and not by the dictates of the market. Rant over!

Vince says:
29 February 2020

The end of cash will be another nail in the coffin of freedom

I am and have been Treasurer for several small, non-profit making and/or charitable, organisations. Operations using bank transfers generate a far bigger work-load for the treasurer in such organisations, causing endless confusion over who has paid what and for which purpose. Person-to-person cash transactions with paper and pen notes plus simple lists, is a perfect system for such small organisations. Easy access to cash is vital in the first instance, then possibly access to a bank for paying in balances occasionally. This may all seem trivial to the government, but such organisations play a vital part in the social cohesion and identity of our country.

Good points, Patrick . . . but bear in mind it’s not the government that is closing banks and cashpoints. It could do something positive to arrest the decline, however, and promote alternative ways of getting access to cash.

My time as a club treasurer was long before the advent of digital payments from personal accounts. Back then, dealing with cheques was the easiest part of my job. The hard work involved the reconciliation of paper records for cash sales of club goods. Most members simply paid in cash, but a few would (mostly) just record what they had used and then expect to be invoiced for that.

The treasurer of our charity used to pop into the bank to deposit cheques, but now the branch has closed and there is no Post Office nearby it is a case of a car journey or posting they cheques.

As Patrick mentions above, there is plenty of opportunity for confusion about what payments are for. An online payment can have a short reference but that might need correlated with an email explaining what the payment is for. What is needed is the opportunity to include explanatory notes with an online payment to help the recipient understand what it is for.

Vicki Jones says:
2 March 2020

I work with vulnerable people who rely on cash to help them budget and who would struggle hugely if cash was not available. I also give cash as a gift to family and friends and donate in cash to many causes. Personally I like to use cash regularly and like having the freedom to choose depending on the situation. My husband is the treasurer of a small local charity who would struggle to survive without it. All charities would struggle without access to cash and taking it away when so many people not only use it, but rely on it would be a disadvantage to those most vulnerable in our society. Freedom of choice is being taken away from everyone particularly those who struggle with technology, both using it and buying it, and with day to day life. Millions risk being left out and left behind. This is why I want the government to protect access to cash. This is a change being rushed through by banks who want to save money and are only interested in paying dividends to share holder, rather than providing service to customers. I could go on but I will leave it there.

I need to have cash so my Carers can do shopping when I’m bedbound for roughly half a year. I find it much easier to budget for a month. I don’t want to break the rules regarding the use of debit and credit cards. So I can’t contribute to a charity’s flag day in town. Buy a newspaper, attend a County Show, a temporary display, how about amateur events, giving a present of money to child? Giving people a bit of help? Older people are certainly not ready for no cash. Changing how their government pensions caused such a problem. Chancellor please mentain the FREE ATM network as those on your benefits do not have a penny to waste or will you increase the amounts paid inline with Council Tax, Fuel Bills and Water Increases? The real price of food year long not just seeing about inflation in September. September the time of year of gluts of fruit and vegetables.