/ 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?

Jennifer Parkes says:
2 March 2020

It is much easier for older people to budget and know how much they are spending with cash. For many pensioners , always using a bank card can be very daunting.and IT systems failing could be disastrous without cash being available.

Carol says:
2 March 2020

Our Thursday Club wouldn’t be able to run without cash for subs, bingo & MegaHoy

Irene Hamnersley says:
2 March 2020

Having instant cash is of massive importance to me and my whole family, some of my relatives are not online and never will be (have learning disabilities) so it would be disastrous for them

pauline owers says:
2 March 2020

Has anyone considered the plight of blind and partially blind people if the use of cash was taken away! There will always be elderly and blind people in this world.

John says:
3 March 2020

A cashless society takes away the remaining privacy that we have.
Dozens of companies are notified whenever a card transaction takes place.
We are spied on from every possible angle.

Anyone searching for an ATM or Post Office when away from home might find the Link Locator App useful: https://www.link.co.uk/media/1335/v-96-link-scheme-ltd-change-control-method4-change-2019-l072_19-online-brochure-link-app-including-the-po-june-2019.pdf

There is also a website showing the location of ATMs: https://www.link.co.uk/consumers/locator/ This will be updated to show distances by road (as the app does) rather than ‘as the crow flies’ but Link’s first priority is to show locations of Post Offices.

I always go into the bank branch to get my cash from a cashier, I hope that by doing this it will prove that we do need banks to stay open!
I wouldn’t expect my gardener or window cleaner to carry a machine in order for their customers to pay by card!

James says:
3 March 2020

In the last year 3 banks have closed their branches in Giffnoçk giving no consideration to customers.bank of scotland, Clydesdale and virgin money.
Being dissabled it is difficult to travel the 3 miles by public transport, banks are happy to take our money but make it difficult to be able to get it back

i have no i phone, nor do I bank on line. I am an old person.
I like using cash for shopping as being of very slender means I can keep tabs on what is being spent.
I can say ‘no’ to myself. by often going out with a certain sum of money, thus I have to stick within that.
I think that the younger generation is tempted to pay by card for anything fancied, especially by contact card payment for smaller purchases.
Last year I gave my views to the Bank of England’s survey re cash. I thought they had accepted that cash was to stay for an indeterminate time.

It is unfair how the banks are corralling the general public into becoming a cashless society. More profit for them!

Please do not allow the banks to eliminate cash for our day to day transactions. Closing branches and removing cash dispensing machines are ways for banks to increase their profits with absolutely no regard to the needs of the population. Banks make more than enough profit and being an essential part of the smooth running of the country they must accept their quota of social responsibility by maintaining easy access to our currency on demand. The pound is our (the people’s) currency. It is not owned by the banks or by government as something to be served out to people as a favour. Banks have been given licences to administer cash for the population and they have no moral right to withhold its distribution by any means they want. If banks cannot accept their responsibilities, the government should heavily penalise them. Then the government should maintain cash as vital legal currency and take over its responsible distribution to the UK population. This may be a disagreeable concept for a Conservative government’s mindset, but as the servant of the electorate it really does need to deal with the banking and cash problem for the people of this country before even more social damage occurs.

Eric Franklin says:
12 March 2020

A totally cogent and factual comment by Dr Alan Reader.

The purpose of cash is to represent the value of what is being bought, and so give the seller that same value so that s/he can make FURTHER exchanges of money for goods. Cash allows simplicity and convenience in making transactions. The disaster-bound hurtling of the high-financial world towards the cliff edge results from its no longer regarding cash as simply an equivalent of the value of a commodity, so facilitating fair exchange. High finance has been elevated to the God of the greedy, the means of making everyone but oneself relatively poorer, regardless of others’ wellbeing. The love of money is indeed the root of all evil, and the abolition of cash is robbery by the banks from those who wish to make fair exchanges of value without hindrance by those who only want an efficient system for making profits for themselves. Eric Franklin

Ken says:
5 March 2020

Cash should remain as legal tender everywhere. It should be illegal to refuse to accept cash on any transaction, if one does not wish to use other forms of payment. It should also be illegal to charge more for using cash.

There are already some places, including London buses, where cash is not accepted.

Alan says:
7 March 2020

Cash is essential as an emergency form of payment. Away from home it could be used for food, accommodation or the fare home, even if an electronic failure occurs. It should be illegal to refuse cash although an upper limit might be acceptable. Only today I was unable to make a purchase because the customer ahead of me was using a card in a reader which malfunctioned. I had to abandon my wait.

Pat says:
7 March 2020

Not everyone lives in cities or large town. Not everyone only uses a debit or credit card for their day to day transactions nor do they want to, cash is safer on the whole. There is less likely of being subjected to fraud!

Paul says:
8 March 2020

Once we go to a cashless society, the government or authorities have complete control over you and can just turn off your whole life at the flick of a switch, no money = no food, no housing, transport, no social life, no where to clean or toilet and no hope. When you look at China with its draconian Social Credit system where they bar you from many things including banking services that we just take for granted it does not take much to see that one mistake and they could turn off your banking facility no matter how much money you have and your life is ruined, very likely forever in a cashless society, because even if you have money going into your account you cannot get it out to live!!

The way our society is going, just saying the wrong thing and a vindictive government made up of left wingers could and they would going by some of the very nasty things coming from the Left Wing right now turn off your bank access, if they could have done it to Brexiteers they would have done believe me, if you even think the wrong political thought, or say a non PC phrase off goes your access to your own money at the flick of a switch with no appeals or appeals that take months!!

Dystopic yes, a reality only one step away!! Wake up people do not let this happen!

If we should end up with a government that would like to shut the country down and stop people going about their ordinary business I can’t see how it makes any difference whether society uses cash or is cashless. Such a controlling power could block access to cash in an instant so that within a short time all the coins and notes were taken out of circulation. Since that is a completely hypothetical and pointless scenario I don’t think it helps Which?’s campaign to maintain a good distribution of free-to-use cash facilities and stop the closure of more bank branches.

A a very senior citizen, I feel that the money I have worked hard for should be under my control. I don’t want the Government or my bank knowing or interfereing in how I spend my money !! If I want to spend or withdraw a large sum of cash I should be able to do that without a trail following me !!

Sarah says:
20 March 2020

And even if you sometimes do use contactless, it doesn’t always work, gets rejected for some unknown reason and/or you forget your pin number. Then you embarrassingly have to leave the goods behind, getting dirty looks from some people which makes you feel guilty as if you’ve stolen your own card…We need to keep the cash and have control over our own earnings.

Simple question HOW TEACH THEM?
uni, school, or google????????

David says:
10 April 2020

I am over 80, have several regular essential helpers inside and outside the house. They are always paid cash.

I’m absolutely incensed that I went into WHSmith’s in Northallerton only to be refused a purchase because I wanted to pay with cash. Apparently it is company policy (probably using the virus as an excuse), but as I reminded them not the law & that the £10 note I had in my hand is the currency of this country, not a piece of plastic. Ironically the branch has a Post Office at the back, which if you have a Post Office account (accessible with a piece of plastic again !), you can withdraw cash, but funnily you cannot then use that cash front of house, so to speak.

I don’t understand why cash seems to be considered to be such a high risk material. For sensible reasons, cash spends most of its life well-concealed and not generally exposed to attracting or harbouring infections. It is other people’s hands that are the perceived transmitter, of course.

We are at more risk of losing the ability to develop immunities if we carry on down the ultra-protective path.

Any coin or note with the AUTHORISED QUEEN’S HEAD on is LEGAL and should always be so. This also applies with the KING’S HEAD ultimately.l

If by that you mean Legal Tender, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. 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.

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.

I need to find that shop that accepts Pokemon cards.

Have you tried the Bulbastore.

Very Amewsing.