/ 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?

Ingrid Thomas says:
28 October 2020

They never wipe the keys after each person has used the cashpoint using their card. So I prefer to pay by cash.

One current advantage in favour of cashpoints at shops is you should be able to santise your hands both before and after using the cashpoint.

I wear nitrile gloves when shopping and using keypads, or use a pen or similar to work the keys.

Talking of keypads, our local car park issues tickets for card payments or phone apps only. I get thrown by the keypad; it is an alphabetical order pad, not a qwerty.

Aldi tried it on just after the scamdemic started by saying they prefer us to use a card. What has that got to do with mind controlling everyone about a fake virus used as a sly way to kill us off by denying us medical treatment and fraudulently steal tax payers money and waste it on unnecessary things and give a large proportion to Richard Branson.

Sainsburys in South Norfolk have sneakily removed two cash machines (they had three at one time), so they are deviously keeping us occupied with unnecessary rules as they move towards a cashless society. Sainsbury’s bleat about keeping us safe over a fake virus as they slowly move towards only taking card transactions so the fraudulent banks, who have no money can spy on our every move. Sainsburys are part of the problem, they are lying to the public and using minister’s preferences to divert attention away from what they are doing to us. Denying us access to cash. The Corona Virus Act allows the state to steal our children. The government has sneakily brought in Bills that allow them to steal our money and murder, rape and torture us.

Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill 2019-21
This allows for the murder, rape and torture under criminal authorisation

Whilst we concentrate on the loss of access to cash they are working against us as we follow their unnecessary rules that we do not have to follow because there is no requirement to wear a uniform to enter any premises.

Anne Andrews says:
28 October 2020

Many smaller businesses don’t accept cards in my area and there are often problems using card machines anyway as the signal is very poor in West Wales. We should still be able to use cash everywhere.

Barry Allen says:
28 October 2020

People should be very worried the Banks are desperate to end “free banking” and charging for all services including transfering funds to pay bills (already difficult by closing branches). By introducing charging by the back door people will not only have to pay for all services but will not be able to take salary/pension in cash without fees!!!! Do you trust Banks and MPs to look after your interests???

This is no more than a straightforward question. For those who can only pay in cash, where do they get the cash from?

I’d been wondering that too malcolm.

Then I rembered that, with some accounts, it is still possible to have cashpoint cards that are not payment cards. So those can only be used to withdraw cash, but not to make direct purchases with.

Indeed, a couple of my savings accounds actually give me such cards. One of then is a link card, and thus is usuable in any Link cashpoint. The other only works in cashpoints operated by its issuing bank. As these cards both have very limted utility, I keep them safe at home and do not carry them around with me.

Others may, of course, avoid banks altogether and operate solely with cash, keeping any spare stash under the mattress.

Keith says:
28 October 2020

A lot of people have cash saving at home

Malcolm – Many people obtain cash from their spouse or cash a cheque in a bank. After my father died I showed mum how to use a card in an ATM. She carried on doing this but insisted in using an ATM inside the branch.

In my experiences many spouses these days have their own access to money. I wonder how many wives now rely on housekeeping money, something more common when I was a sprog.

I don’t use much cash but when life was normal I would collect the £2 fees for evening bowls games and use that as my source of cash (giving the club treasurer a cheque for the whole amount, I hasten to add, which was better for them than a bag full if shrapnel – a few people seemed to use up their supply of 5 and 10p coins).

Margaret Dunne says:
28 October 2020

All sorts of venues for sales like school bazaars, fetes & craft fairs- all part of the English culture need to be able to handle cash. Often wifi signals are too poor in the countryside for mobile card machines to work. Using cash is an essential area of learning money management for children.

john robbins says:
28 October 2020

This is all about Supermarkets saving money, no one has to count your cash, at the Supermarket and at the bank the other end, they don’t have to pay a Security firm to come and collect cash, they don’t have to put a cash float in tills or check tills to see if till operators are fiddling. They get a ridiculous rate with the bank for credit card clearance so its win win for them .

That’s a fair point, John, but don’t forget it’s the customers who have been choosing to pay with debit and credit cards for several decades who have driven this change. So long as a convenient option to pay with cash remains available I don’t think we can complain. And security works both ways -shoppers don’t want to be carrying great wads of notes every time they go out to get the weekly food supply, and very few people get their wages or pension in cash these days, again for security reasons.

This PLANdemic now CASEdemic is about taking your freedoms and rights away, one of which is cash, that way they can tax every penny, see everything you spend your money on and profit from that data. Its about control and at the moment they are looking to see how many will comply with whatever nonsense they come out with by using fear for a virus that was most likely manipulated and dropped by humans and you have over a 99% chance of surviving if you got it.
Under no other circumstances would they have been able to try and get rid of cash so easily.
Wake up people.

Nobody has got rid of cash. Almost every day I spend notes and coins on something or other. I’m sure I could find places that don’t take cash as easily as I could find places that won’t take cards. Traders are not suicidal; if they want business they will find a way of using cash safely. The government has actually promised to safeguard access to cash.

Edward Haslam says:
28 October 2020

There must be many thousands/millions of people who cannot cope with card paying as being intimidating or even frightening. I suggest that most people over 70 are not able or willing to do so. I’m 78 and can cope with most computer- type devices, but I don’t have or want an iPhone. There will come a time when we’re all gone and you can then slide quietly into this new technology!

Edward – You don’t have to have a smart phone to make payments. Cheques, debit and credit cards, and cash are all available payment methods for buying things. Only when buying on-line is the choice restricted to debit and credit cards.

Andrew Wells says:
28 October 2020

I have recently noticed that my local supermarket has removed two of the three cash machines. I wondered if anyone had noticed this anywhere else, and do you think this is a move to cut down on access to cash.

It is probably down to lack of use by customers. As long as one remains, in working order, the access to cash facility is still there. They may also get cash from the till, without making a purchase if the trials are successful.

Andrew, I suspect that falling demand for cash has meant that your supermarket now only needs one machine instead of two.

Where I live, one big Tesco now has only 2 instead of 3 and Sainsburys has 1 instead of 2, but these changes have come about gradually. Meanwhile, many Aldi and Lidl stores that previously did not have cash machines have introduced them.

Our Morrisons has increased the number of ATMs from three to four following the expansion of the small retail development outside town. One of them is inside the filling station. Tesco has only two but there are plenty of others a short distance away in the town centre.

Philip Rowlands says:
28 October 2020

[Moderator: this comment has been deleted as it did not adhere to the Community Guidelines.

Hi Phillip, as you suggested, I checked out those events but I found no clear evidence of any actual conspiracies.

To me the gist of your argument seems to be that, if any organisation undertakes emergency planning exercises, then any subsequent emergency must have been a deliberately planned event.

I think that is a silly argument.

It looks like the comment that gave rise to Derek’s reply (above) has been reported and suspended. It was quite inflammatory so it might have been brought to the editorial team’s attention for review. So Derek’s reply is not a response to Sue Blackshaw.

I’d noticed that too. I thought my response might have been taken as attacking the Original Poster, but I did not want his views to stand unchallenged.

If our editors want to tidy up by also deleting my response, that will be fine by me.

Looks like an Error 410

We are being forced into having bank accounts and plastic cards and next will be paying by mobile phone apps and not plastic. This brings our finances into the control of banks and digital platforms, who then control where and how we spend our money. Small traders or those selling goods for cash are also controlled so that our every financial transaction can be monitored, controlled and taxed .

The pandemic has been a convenient excuse to gain greater control over our transactions. However not everyone trusts the banks. If recent banking collapses are anything to go by, we are right to distrust banks with our money and should be allowed to use cash for goods and services. Otherwise we will end up with two economies, one that enables people to exchange goods for other forms of currency or exchange of goods for trades, services, swaps or even bit coins and crypto currency.

Forcing us into a cashless society is about control of the masses and taxation and has nothing to do with this pandemic. Otherwise we would have introduced cashless societies for other flu viruses that cannot be cured or prevented. This is mass hysteria fuelled by central government who have their own hidden agendas.

Eric Green says:
28 October 2020

ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, ANITA. You’ve got it in one!!

Anita and Eric – I don’t know where the “mass hysteria” is coming from but it’s certainly not from the government. Successive Chancellors of the Exchequer have been at pains to point out that the government is taking steps to protect access to cash. Studies are taking place, trials are being organised of different mechanisms, the financial services industry and the Payment Systems Regulator are heavily involved, and it is clearly-stated government policy.

Everyone has the right not to believe the government but it is unfair to deny that it is enacting its policy and to accuse it of the complete opposite. Some people have inhaled too much of the “mass hysteria” and in fact are stoking it up. It is not surprising that the current emergency and understandable caution have led to a conspiracy theory but no credible evidence of it has ever been put forward.

It would be interesting to see the evidence for saying that people are being forced into having bank accounts. For the last fifty years people have been choosing to have bank or building society accounts for convenience, security and the ease of making regular payments without missing one or paying late. They also give access to savings accounts and investments and to other financial facilities.

Everyone has the right not to have a bank account but employers have the right to stipulate that pay will be transferred into a bank account as a contractual condition of service. So far as I am aware there is no link between bank accounts and taxation unless the person is already under investigation. I am also not aware of any “recent bank collapses” or of a general and widespread distrust of banks. Most of us trust them to keep our money safe and tell us how much we have, when it’s coming in and when it’s going out, usually at no cost to the customer.

I have also noticed a suggestion that not all income should be declared for tax. I trust this is a misunderstanding. I don’t think there is any public support for people who seek to conceal their income in order to avoid paying tax. There can be arguments about the details but overall there are many tax reliefs and exemptions – including on VAT – that attempt to create a fair and equitable basis for commerce.

Helen Soester says:
28 October 2020

I work with people with a learning disability. We are not allowed to know their PIN, and they may not remember them. Contactless payment is open to abuse. If they are to remain as independent as possible, and participate in life, cash is vital. We can support them to the bank, and there is a paper trail with regards to their finances, which lessens the chance of financial abuse.

Eric Green says:
28 October 2020

We must jealously guard our cash. Cash has always been the lubrication of our society and it must be defended at all cost. Other forms of payment can be extremely convenient, but not everyone has a bank account, indeed, not everyone wants one.
Both Anita Singh and Helen Soester are unarguably right. Society MUST retain the option of using cash whenever and wherever we desire; this MUST be our own individual choice.
Well said ladies, keep saying it!

When you use cash your data cannot be collected. When you use a card or phone to pay your data is mined and can be sold. You are inadvertently providing details about where you are, when, what you are purchasing and how often. This is invaluable info and supermarkets and banks and other corporations cannot be trusted to keep your data private.
It’s not surprising that we are being nudged into not using cash and the virus is a good excuse to fast track this.
Unfortunately it is always the most vulnerable that will suffer the most but we are all at risk because our data is used to not only target us by companies wanting to sell us things but also is used to influence us in all our decisions including voting. This is proven by the Cambridge Analytical scandal which mined info from social media to target people during elections and the Brexit referendum in the US and the UK.
We should be deeply concerned because it affects our basic rights of privacy, freedom and democracy.

Maggie Osmond says:
28 October 2020

Bank notes carry both the endorsement or backing of the bank of England and the monarch, therefore legal tender….. Surely then it cannot be denied when offered to buy items.

Roger says:
29 October 2020

Is cash legal tender,coin of the realm?
If your offer to pay by cash is denied,can you claim the goods in question without further ado.?

Roger – There is lots of information about legal tender on-line if you put that term into a search engine. The Bank of England says “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.” Legal tender means that any coins you use for payment are only legal up to certain amounts [e.g. pennies and two pence coins are legal tender in amounts up to 20 pence].

So the answer to your question is No; you cannot claim the goods if your offer of cash is rejected. A trader can decide in what form payment should be made. Declining cash would mean there is no sale so there is no debt.

Carmel says:
29 October 2020

Restaurant refused cash fir my meal insisting on card payment.acutely embarrassed. Finally said we will accept cash but you we can’t give you change.
Pubs insisting on cash. No longer able to buy drink at bar.table service includes service charge fir one drink!!

I imagine eating and drinking establishments are doing whatever they think is the safest method of operating during the pandemic.

Think what accepting cash entails:
💥 Customer hands over cash – could have come from anywhere
💥 Server will need to wash their hands
💥 Server takes cash to till – possible hand infection
💥 Server will need to wash their hands
💥 Giving change to customers – more possible infection
💥 Server will need to wash their hands
💥 Cash counted at the end of the day – another person handling it
💥 Person will need to wash their hands
💥 Trip to the bank to deposit it – risky if walking through busy area
💥 Queueing at the bank – big risk of getting infected
💥 Standing at the counter – another risk of infection
💥 Person will need to use hand sanitiser
💥 Getting home/wherever afterwards – more risk of infection

Accepting cash is just hassle they don’t need especially if they have vulnerable staff working and I imagine the majority of pubs will not want cash either.

I suggest you check on method of payment before eating and drinking in future.

Alfa – I think some of the repetitive handwashing could be avoided by the server wearing nitrile gloves, as kitchen staff often do.

I agree that we should all do whatever we can to pay in the least potentially harmful way, but all types of payment except contactless carry risks.

How does one leave the server a tip nowadays?

There is often an item on the credit card bill where you can add a tip. I wonder who that goes to?

Because of legislation I expect all these precautions are to keep people ultra-safe and, more important, be seen to do so.

I play shortmat bowls and our governing body has agreed procedures with government that allows us to play with more than 6 people, if we demonstrate that we meet all the requirements and are given a certificate to confirm that. So we have to sanitise all equipment, chairs, door handles etc before and after play, join a team and stay with them on the same mat, only touch your own bowls, wear masks, don’t use the kitchen……. It sounds onerous but it is not, it just becomes a routine, and gets people out and about and socialising. I could argue some of the procedures are over the top, but when health and confidence in safety are at stake it is the best way in my view.

Jaye says:
29 October 2020