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Access to cash: join our week of action

If action isn’t taken, cash as we know it today could be gone in two years’ time. Join us in calling for the government to protect access in the upcoming budget.

Getting access to your own money is under threat.

In the past two years alone, almost 10,000 ATMs have closed across the UK and more than 3,000 bank branches have closed their doors.

All the while, consumers are paying more and more to take cash out of an ATM. It’s unacceptable that almost a quarter of the ATM network now charges people just to access their own money.

Last year, people paid £100m in withdrawal fees. These changes hit those on the lowest incomes the hardest.

This comes despite the fact that, last May, a new Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group (JACS) was set up by the Treasury – but there has been no public progress update.

It’s time for action now

1.9m people in the UK are solely reliant on cash, while it’s thought that 8m would struggle in a cashless society.

If action isn’t taken, this situation will only get worse; LINK has now said that without government intervention, cash as we know it today could be completely gone in just two year’s time.

Cash could be gone in 2 years

If action isn’t taken cash as we know it today could be gone in two years time. Are you worried about bank branch closures, or free-to-use ATMs vanishing from your high streets, or being forced to pay to access your own money?

Posted by Which? Money on Monday, February 24, 2020

 

It’s clear that we cannot rely on industry goodwill alone. These ad-hoc initiatives will not be enough to save cash over the long-run and risk leaving people and communities slipping through the gaps.

That’s why, this week, we’re calling for the government to step in.

In the upcoming budget on 11 March, we want the government to legislate to protect access to cash for the millions of people who rely on it across the country.

What we’re doing

Today marks the start of a week of action to save bank branches and ATMs across the country.

This week, we’re asking you to join our calls on the government by adding your voice to our campaign.

You can also support us on Twitter using the hashtag #protectcash to share your stories.

Create your tweet with our tool here

On Wednesday, Anabel Hoult, the CEO of Which? will be writing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, outlining why the government must act now and what we want to see happen.

We’ll be publishing the letter in full here on Which? Conversation.

On Friday she’ll then be taking your stories directly to Downing Street.

Digital innovation can be a good thing and, for those of us who have a choice, digital payments can bring real benefits. But it’s clear that we are not ready to go cashless yet.

Thank you for your support – we’ll be updating this page next week to let you know the progress we’ve made.

Comments

@gshaw – I very much support the Which? campaign to protect access to cash.

You say: “If action isn’t taken, cash as we know it today could be gone in two years’ time.” I don’t believe this and making this sort of statement will damage the credibility of Which?

Nor me. Love to know how they worked that one out.

It appears from the Intro [para 8] that the “cash as we know it today . . .” comment is attributed to LINK and has been repeated [without challenge] by Which?.

It’s cash Jim, but not as we know it.

Whatever do they mean?

This is what the government said last year.
“https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cash-here-to-stay-as-government-commits-to-protecting-access
News story
Cash here to stay as government commits to protecting access
Current make-up of UK’s coins and notes will be maintained for years to come
Published 3 May 2019
From:
HM Treasury and The Rt Hon Philip Hammond”/i>”

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/807844/JACS_Group_-_Terms_of_Reference__ToR__-_June_2019.pdf

The Chancellor and power of No. 11 has changed since then but does Which? have inside information that suggests this policy is no longer being upheld?

That claim has come from the ATM network, LINK, who have been clear that unless the Government intervenes urgently, the infrastructure that supports access to cash will be gone within 2 years. This would have significant repercussions for the overwhelming majority who use ATMs the access their own money.

We want to make sure that this doesn’t happen and believe that the upcoming Budget is the perfect opportunity for the Government to take action and give a regulator the powers needed to protect access to cash.

Thanks for explaining where the claim came from, Genevieve. I’m not aware that the Payment Systems Regulator has made any such claim.

Free access to cash is certainly decreasing, and there is then a risk that ATMs could be withdrawn because of a decline in use.

There are more measured reports that discuss access to cash. There is no doubt that the way we use and access cash is changing, for very good reasons, but rather than putting the frighteners on, some organisations choose to discuss it rationally, recognise the changing scene and make constructive proposals.
For example, the final Access to Cash report published last year includes:
https://www.accesstocash.org.uk/media/1087/final-report-final-web.pdf
”Our final report shows that we need to take action, and that there are solutions we can adopt to ensure that no one is left behind which are practical and affordable. We can be more innovative in the way we enable cash access. We can develop digital payments technology in a more inclusive way. And we can re-engineer the cash infrastructure to make it lower cost and more sustainable, so that it can support cash for longer.

A LINK report published last July contains much useful information.
https://www.link.co.uk/media/1510/v-ops-management-method4-method4-change-2019-l081_19-preserving-access-to-cash-july-2019.pdf

And another statement:
https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/press/press-releases/uk-banking-and-finance-industry-update-local-access-cash

Certainly, we must look at how we maintain the use of cash and access to it, but that needs to include the vast majority of the population, not just those currently within easy distance of a bank, ATM or post office.

I’d like to see us think of all consumers and make constructive proposals that help them.

Sabrina Rochemont says:
24 February 2020

An action should be added to this week’s schedule: the JACS group to publicly release their recommendations.

As I wrote earlier, the article at the top of this Conversation made it clear that the LINK organisation was responsible for the statement that access to cash would be gone within two years if the government did not take urgent action. However, I am surprised that Which? has not provided a link to the source of the comment or challenged the basis on which it has been made.

The “infrastructure to support access to cash” is a network of cash dispensing machines, a stock of banknotes and a supply operation to keep the machines replenished. I cannot see what is going to happen in the space of two years to close down all that infrastructure, remove the facilities and seal up the openings. So long as there is a need for cash the banks and building societies are obliged to provide it and will be faced with long queues of customers in their branches and a lot of dissatisfied customers.

The public have made it abundantly clear that there will be a continuing need for cash for as far ahead as anyone can see, but the special advantage of ATM’s and the LINK network is that customers of the affiliated banks can use any machine in the network and are not restricted to one provided by their own bank. Are we being covertly told by LINK that this is now under threat and that in two years’ time customers will have to find a machine operated by their own bank before they can get hold of their own money? Further investigation required, please.

We have, once again, an irresponsible statement presumably designed to panic people. There is, as far as I can see, no move to suggest “ cash as we know it today could be gone in two years’ time.“.

The Access to Cash Review final report I have seen, and the latest statement from the panel, does warn of the dangers of losing access to cash, as these Convos have discussed many times.

We are losing bank and building society branches, and ATMs, largely through reduced use by us. However, many ATMs are lost where they were close together, through under use, although those without another within 1km are protected from closure by LINK. But we have gained 11500 post office outlets. In fact, together with ATMs, we have at least 3 times as many cash access points as in 1986 despite a huge drop in the use of cash.

However, this is not the point. Whether, or not, cash use has declined in amount of money or number of transactions most people still use cash, through necessity and choice, and want to continue to use it. And “most people” covers the whole of the UK, not just those currently within convenient reach of a bank, post office or ATM. So simply focusing attention on “stemming the tide of bank branch and cash machine closures” is not good enough. We must work to expand the means to access cash to everyone possible, while recognising the traditional means are, for many outlets, uneconomic
.
New initiates can not only stem the tide, but make access much better than ever before, and to far more people.

LINK have initiatives to put ATMs in needy locations, through the High Street commitment and through local community requests. But, more far reaching, the Access to Cash panel themselves and UK Finance have proposed that cash businesses and retailers throughout the whole of the UK, could be organised to recycle cash by dispensing it to customers. Potentially opening up easy access to cash in all the remote regions as well as other cash deserts.

What we should be doing is debating how best to give as many in the UK as possible unprecedented and convenient access to cash. It won’t happen, in my view, via new ATMs and bank branches. We need to propose and explore all the various other possible options with open minds. I hope Which? will take part in this debate in a more constructive way instead of .

It’s unacceptable that almost a quarter of the ATM network now charges people just to access their own money.

When I last looked at reports of areas losing free-to-use ATMs in favour of pay-to use I found that while the balance was changing, in the examples given there was still a sensible distribution of free ones. LINK also have a protected ATM policy for those without another within 1km. I do not see that distance as greatly inconvenient; my nearest has never been that close.

We have recent Convos on access to cash. By introducing yet another, any material submitted in those will be overlooked. There is no summary given of commenters views from either “side”. It looks as though we are being steamrollered.

Why do Which? not include a summary of relevant information and views provided, either at intervals in a Convo or, if a new version must be started, in its intro?

Picked this one up over in the Website Feedback forum, Malcolm.

The reference there to the Which? campaign and to Gareth Shaw’s video is interesting, and illustrate one of my criticisms of the Which? approach. He mentions the loss of ATMs, but overlooks mentioning that there are 5000 more – 12.5% – ATMs than there were in 2009. He does not mention where they are lost – many from close together – nor initiatives to keep important ones open. Nor does he mention that you can access cash from 11500 post offices that you could not do a year or two ago. Nor is any justification made for the claim that “If action isn’t taken cash as we know it today could be gone in two years time“.

Please do not misunderstand my motives. I, too, want to retain cash and retain access to it; in fact, for far more people than currently, as I keep posting. It is the partial information designed to drive us in a particular direction that I object to, and the press releases that will be repeated by an unthinking media, relying on Which?’s reputation. I want to see a more balanced, and more constructive, approach. But no sign of that.

Hey all!

Interesting discussion so far. We made this graph quickly based on the free-to-use ATM figures from LINK over the past decade:

There is a marked decline over the past three years; and it’s set to continue according to LINK.

Do check out the live blog Adam and I built for #ProtectCash – it will feature updates about all of Which?’s activity over the week – and let us know what you think 🙂

Oscar

See my comment preceding this post from Oscar. Cash is not all about ATMs but the decline in ATMS is due to reduced use. The distribution of ATMs is more important than their number if many lost were close to others. More information should be given so that a considered view of the situation can be arrived at.

There is no reason to assume that the number of free-to-use ATM’s in 2009 was correct. It is highly likely that it was excessive, the result of extravagancy by the banks and building societies in competing with each other. It should be borne in mind that for some years banks restricted the use of their ATM’s to their own customers. That has been rationalised and there has also been consolidation in the sector through takeovers and amalgamation leading to the closure of duplicate branches. Numbers are relevant but adequacy of provision should be the test.

Thanks for the link, Oscar. It’s interesting to see that 450 requests have been made for ATMs.

Hi Malcolm, interesting point. It’s true ATM transaction volumes are declining:

But could that be because free-to-use ATMs are being shut down? It’s a bit chicken and egg, isn’t it?

@oscarwebb, thanks Oscar. My point was not that a proportion of ATMs are being shut down – they are – but the locations of the majority of ATMs that are being shut down. There are too many for their usage but if they are being lost from clusters and areas where they are close together then that is a sensible response. I, and I suspect most people, can access ATMs so declining transactions suggests reduced demand.

LINK have more protected ATMs than a year or two ago, and from looking at LINK maps ATMs are still well distributed.However, although we also have post offices and cash back as additional distributors, there are proposals to use many more cash businesses as points where cash can be accessed; probably by introducing regulation and bringing them within a LINK scheme. I hope this develops. It will help far more people than ATMs ever can.

But Post offices are now starting to close. That’s the big picture. Slowly but irrevocably sources of cash are disappearing.

Presumably there is information somewhere to show the scale of intended closures?

However, this just reinforces the point that alternative sources of cash availability are pursued, as has been reported a number of times.

The rise and fall of ATMs looks a little different when other years are added to the graph:

The graph for banks’ and building societies ATMs only goes back to 2001

The graph for banks’ and building societies’ ATMs only goes back to 2001

All figures(including the images Jon has posted) taken from https://www.link.co.uk/about/statistics-and-trends/

This goes back just a little further, alfa.

Ian mentioned closure of Post Offices. This document has some figures: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=14&ved=2ahUKEwjTsJSp0e3nAhWHgVwKHR7uAasQFjANegQIBRAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fresearchbriefings.files.parliament.uk%2Fdocuments%2FSN02585%2FSN02585.pdf&usg=AOvVaw0kWszVAZs1AIXSMBaoqZAK

There are regular press articles warning of forthcoming closures and although these may exaggerate the problem, there is no doubt that the future of Post Offices is of concern: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/apr/15/one-in-five-uk-post-offices-could-close-in-next-year-survey-finds

I know of mobile banks that are on site for an hour a week, but here is the tale of a Post Office that provides a service for half an hour: https://www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk/news/local-news/village-left-post-office-running-3681130

The Parliamentary briefing paper cited is 18 months old (when published) and begins:
Access Criteria In return for its package of funding for transformation and modernisation, the Post Office is committed to investing in the network, and maintaining around 11,500 branches with no further substantive reductions and continued accessibility for all at the national level. In December 2017 the government pledged £370million in funding for the Post Office up to March 2021.

The Guardian article referred to:
” This article is more than 10 months old
One in five UK post offices could close in next year, survey finds

It does not yet seem to have come to pass.

The village post office closure article, due to retirement, on Licolnshire Live goes on: Allison Wallace, Post Office area network change manager, said:”We are pleased to be able to add Tattenshall to the existing mobile Post Office offered by the postmaster for Coningsby whilst we continue to look for a permanent solution.”

It would be a concern if extensive post office closures occurred. Perhaps there is more information that tells us what is going to happen.

There is not a more recent Parliamentary briefing paper.

The Guardian article was an example of a press article warning of closures, as I said.

The Post Office that was reported to be open half an hour a week is an example of the failure to manage essential services.

Maybe you can provide links to more useful articles.

I didn’t raise the question of possible post office closures; I simply asked if there was any evidence that this was on the cards, having had this mentioned. I’ve seen nothing so far. Maybe others have.

The sub post office mentioned above is not open at all, due to retirement of the owner of the independent business. The half hour service, such as it is, is provided by a mobile post office. Looking at the map, Tattershall seems to about 800m from Coningsby where there is a post office. Is this correct?

I am not aware of any definitive information about scheduled closures. Some are reprieved as a result of strong local opposition. Replacing Crown Post Offices with franchises creates further uncertainty. I explained the demise of our village Post Office when the village shop replaced the busy counter employing two members of staff with a delicatessen. Our town had a large Crown Post Office and despite considerable opposition this has been replaced by a counter in WH Smith. At least it has an ATM that is available 24/7.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/01/post-office-workers-protest-the-franchising-and-closure-of-branches

We have lost 3 Post Offices in our area, one a long walk the others a drive away. One has reopened in a small shop where there is nowhere to park for a quick visit so not sure how long it will last.

Our local post box collections are now all in the mornings – our nearest says 9.30am, so likely to be used less and also likely to disappear.

The evidence for Post Office closures is simply that the Post Office is a business. They will close once it becomes ‘uneconomic’ to operate them. That’s how business operates and it’s why the Post Office ought never to have been privatised.

That is hardly evidence of the demise of post offices.

My local Post Office operates in an annex of a local social club. It does a steady stream of business, not least for those of us who need to send articles through the post.

But, I live in a city, so I have no shortage of nearby ATM’s and other means of getting cash.

I think this campaign really needs to consider how ATM and post offices can be subsidised in sparsely populated areas when they will not otherwise be commercially viable.

And, of course, these problems only exist because the majority of us consumers no longer use or really need much access to cash.

I disagree, but if you want more try this.

This was reported above, and that they would close in the next 12 months – reported nearly 12 months ago. It has not yet happened. Maybe it will, but we should see evidence that this kind of speculation has substance. Reports in the media need to be treated with caution.

Well, the evidence is pretty clear cut to me:

1. “More than a fifth of sub-postmasters, who run the Post Office franchises across the UK, have said they plan to resign or downsize because of increasing financial pressures.”

2. I see post offices closing and not being replaced.

3. The Post Offices are a private business. How does private business operate? It either makes good money or it closes down. Who defines ‘good money’? The private businesses themselves.

It’s hardly speculation, is it? It’s report from industry body National Federation of SubPostmasters. And it’s not alone.

But the other point is that you demand an impossible level of evidence when businesses are famed for doing things gradually, covertly and carefully without revealing their true intentions.

There are many things in the world for which we don’t have absolute evidence. Climate change, Tobacco causing lung cancer, the composition of the Moon, gravity – the list is endless.

In the scientific community evidence consists of observations leading to a hypothesis.
We are observing a trend towards a cashless society.
We are observing closures of banks.
We are observing closures of Post Offices.

When we observe a fire, we observe heat. It takes someone who’s pretty daft to push their hand into the flames to obtain definitive evidence of its danger.

I would argue that with such overwhelming evidence from observation facing us, it is foolhardy to continue to reject these observations and demand absolute evidence. After all, you have no evidence for the existence of gravity, but you believe it exists because of what you see and feel on a daily basis, don’t you?

Very good, Ian. I like a scientific approach. I think there is evidence that the number of Post Offices has halved since the early 80s. There are suggestions that the move to franchise will lead to more closures and the franchises have been debated in Parliament: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&ved=2ahUKEwieja7c7-_nAhURXhUIHTs6A0cQFjAEegQICRAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fresearchbriefings.files.parliament.uk%2Fdocuments%2FCDP-2018-0285%2FCDP-2018-0285.pdf&usg=AOvVaw3jF6jmrVtR1VK3o7w9jT6f

I prefer to see a constructive approach to maintaining access to cash – discussing and finding alternatives that suit the future.

Which? is pushing for government action, which needs to discuss the current problems with PSR and the banks. That would be a very constructive approach.

The PSR, UK Finance, LINK and others including government (JACS) are already examining the issue, according to the various links and reports posted. VISA are already undertaking trials of a new initiative.

It’s good that you have such confidence in the leading financial industry players, Malcolm. As most are owned by the banks then we must be secure.

One of the reasons some stick to using cash is that that it is easy to see how much you have left in your wallet. Unless you are using some form of online banking the easy way to check the balance on a debit card is to put it in an ATM and display or print the balance and perhaps some recent transactions. In the days before online banking I did this frequently to check that all was well.

Anyone got any bright ideas about how those who don’t use online banking can check their account balance easily if they don’t have easy access to an ATM?

There is still telephone banking, so that allows checks of one’s balance without either ATMs or internet access. You do, of course, need access to a telephone phone.

But whether or not you take out all your cash or leave it in the bank, I think the timing of standing orders and direct debit payments still causes some people a lot of problems.

Yes, but it’s a bit of a performance compared with sticking a card in an ATM and keying in four numbers.

I get paper statements from the bank and the credit card company, receive bills from the utilities, save till receipts from the shops, fill in the counterfoils in the cheque book, and keep an eye on other outgoings. I then do a bit of arithmetic. It’s not that hard.

I can also do it the digital way but I enjoy the exercise of keeping a track of my finances as and when I need to. It rarely lets me down.

I used to do that until the late 70s, but it became easier to pop a card into an ATM when passing. Of course that’s not necessary for those who use online banking.

John, I fear that many of the issues we hear about are because most people choose to be too lazy or too clueless to keep track of their finances.

Although paper systems can do this quite well, PC and smart phones apps offer other useful choices there.

Also, for those prepared to trust smartphone apps, it becomes very easy to keep track of account balances and the processing of payments.

I must admit that on-line banking is incredibly easy and useful for keeping track of all your accounts and payments. There are various levels of activity – for example, there is no need to make on-line bank transfers which many people are worried about. I don’t look at my on-line banking pages until I need to, so sometimes months go by and then I need to set up or cancel a payment or alter a standing order. That all had to be done by correspondence or attendance at the bank in the ‘good old days’.

Last time I attended a city bank in person, I was more or less dumbfounded by the arrays of different self service machines there. Luckily I did manage to figure out how to scan and pay in a cheque, without needing any assistance from any of the few staff there.

I usually post cheques in to my bank. With a postbox five minutes walk away from home it gets it done.

I’m a long-term user of online banking and now don’t bother with paper statements. I think I was ‘nudged’ into that decision but I had no real need for the paper ones.

I expect that Derek is waiting to issue warnings about using a banking app on my iPhone, so I reserve the right to discontinue the trial. 🙂 It seems incredibly easy to to use mobile banking and after a quick inspection managed to move money between accounts. At least to start with I would be happier to view rather than move money around, but it’s easier to use than entering all the necessary information in to log into online banking, now plus a six digit code that arrives on phone.

None of this helps those who don’t trust online banking or are not able to use it.

I wonder if there are banking apps that simply allow the user to view their balance and recent transactions but not make payments. That could be very useful, yet remove the risk of losing money.

The Nationwide’s on-line banking system using a card reader for logging in is quick and convenient but I choose to have paper statements because, on arrival towards the end of each month, they prompt me to just check the entries on my account and other relevant information. It’s a good discipline and I have recently found it useful in these paperless days to have a physical document that proves that I am who I say I am, that I live where I say I do, and that I have the funds that I say I have to enter into a commitment.

Since there is always a ‘Confirm’ command before the execution of any payment or transfer committed through on-line banking I am not sure that any further protection is required, although I agree that it might be helpful for some users to have to physically enter a further screen before accessing a payment function.

It would be a great help if the requirements for documents as evidence of address and identity were standardised. I’ve found that council tax statements and water bills have been acceptable long after the stated three month period. 

I get a quarterly water bill [they are trying to force me to access it on-line] but the council tax bill is only once a year [any day now I expect] so a three month limitation is ridiculous.

Most paperless bills [e.g. BT, electricity, etc] do not show the service or supply address so a hard copy is useful as proof of residence. Passports are also not much use other than for showing an old picture of the individual and their NI No. I find the recently received Notice of Coding from HMRC probably the most useful identifier with the least security risks [except it states the NI No.]. I don’t really know why banks and solicitors need to keep copies of the identity documents they require sight of. Getting visitor parking permits here is a bit of a paper chase as you have to produce one in List A and a different one in List B – even though we are council tax payers and have also authorised access to the council tax account as a verifier.

My water bill is only once a year. I do still get paper credit card bills monthly. I have not used the Notice of Coding but might use your recommendation. Not having a current passport, I was eventually forced into replacing my old green driving licence with a photo card one. Visitors’ parking is one problem I don’t have.

We seem to have wandered off access to cash.

ATMs were originally introduced so that people could access cash at any time when people behind various counters had gone home. Supermarkets began to offer limited cash and many had/ have machines outside if you want more than £50. Depending on life style, it may still be useful to access cash at night or late on a Sunday. They avoid queues at checkouts and post office counters. They supply bank balances and they used to provide a mini statement, but I don’t think they do now. For people like me, the tap card is an anathema, though I accept that many more find it useful. I don’t carry wads of cash, but I use notes and change frequently and top up my wallet regularly, mostly at the checkout. I support any move to see that cash is available in future and if Which? sees a genuine threat to its future, then I support its efforts to rally government support. I also agree with those who think the headline and implication that we will be cashless in two years is probably alarmist and ill considered. I don’t see anything wrong in raising the profile of this problem with government, though they have indicated that cash will not go away yet.

I can’t see that any government would have a long-term interest in supporting a cash-based economy. Think of the billions of pounds lost in taxes that still results from cash-in-hand deals, let alone the criminal transactions that must rely on cash (or crypto-currencies) to avoid leaving a money trail.

And as someone who has to pay tax on everything I earn and most things I buy, I feel it is in my interest to pay others using traceable transactions. This may help to ensure they also pay their fair share of income tax and don’t defraud the government of VAT they have collected from me. About the only time I use cash is if I want to leave a tip for good service to someone who is probably on minimum wage.

I feel strongly about this, Em. I used to pay by cheque, but now I generally offer to pay tradespeople by bank transfer or card. I did pay a builder about £2k and he asked if he could have a small amount in cash so that he did not have to go to the ATM or bank and I was happy to oblige.

I have no doubt that the government would like phase out cash sooner rather than later, not only to avoid loss of tax revenue but to oblige the banks.

The reasons I am keen to maintain ready availability of cash is because there are still many that use it and some people do not have bank accounts. This year I have only needed cash once, when the kitchen in a pub was closed on 2 January and we had to pop across the road for fish & chips, which we ate in the pub before a meeting. The reason I support retention of ATMs is because they are the most efficient way of providing cash and have proved their worth over more than 40 years.

… and some people do not have bank accounts.

Could someone then let me know how these people get cash out of an ATM, without the use of explosives or a JCB? If there is free cash on offer, I’d like some too!

Em – Those people who are not allowed a bank account or don’t want one still need to use money. Those who are working will presumably be paid in cash, perhaps for doing odd jobs. I did not suggest that they would obtain cash from ATMs.

“I have no doubt that the government would like phase out cash sooner rather than later“. What information is this based on? I would think there will be enough people with inside knowledge who, if asked, would confirm this – or otherwise.

I do have doubt that the government intend to phase out cash any time soon. Perhaps this is just a smokescreen? “HM Treasury has established and will chair the JACS Group, bringing together the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England (BoE). This is within the context of the Government’s policy to safeguard access to cash for those who need it, whilst supporting digital payments“.

Whilst it may be convenient to get cash out 24h a day it is not, in my view, essential. I’m interested in seeing people putting forward alternatives to add to the current cash access network that will bring access to cash within easier reach of far more people. I do not believe ATMs will achieve that.

Em’s point about the cash-in-hand businesses is very apt. In fact if you look at it from a logical point of view, what reason does the government have to continue to supply cash?

Governments everywhere want control of their citizenry; in particular they need to levy taxation and they are only too well aware of the grey economy, which translates into implicit conspiracies between provider and buyer. In simple terms, if you can get your hedge trimmed for £60 less with cash than a cheque which option do you choose?

There is no logical reason for the government to continue to supply cash. None whatsoever. And this government in particular will be interested in maximising tax income and using any feasible techniques to reduce costs. I have no doubt, based on numerous pronouncements from the very people that now comprise the government, that the sooner they can eliminate cash, the sooner they will feel their job is done.

The only thing any government is concerned about in the short term is getting back into power. Anything which threatens that ambition is just about the only thing that will cause them to change course. And that’s why we have Which? and why we need to back their campaign to the hilt.

In April 2019, there were 49,502 free-to-use machines and 13,147 charging machines. Most of these machines are clustered together in areas of high demand and high footfall, particularly retail centres and transport hubs: 73% of all free-to-use machines are within 300 metres of the next, and 94% are within one kilometre. This is partly because people access cash not where they live, but rather when they travel and where they shop and work.

When “dramatic” figures for cash machines closures are issued that infer access to cash is rapidly diminishing, the above data is conveniently omitted. LINKs strategy is to ensure that clusters of machines are not over-subsidised, to protect single ATMs where there is nor another within 1km, to ensure all high streets have an ATM and to ask communities to make a case to have one installed. They also propose other initiatives.

As I have said before, it would be better if the whole picture were presented so we are better informed.

Cash usage is shrinking in Britain faster than in most places, and the debate about what to do about it is getting louder. That’s important because, like just about every country where digital payments are taking over, the UK doesn’t have much of a plan for what happens next.

In the UK, plastic payment cards are the most popular way to buy things. Only about 30% of transactions use paper notes and coins, and that figure is expected to fall to as low as 10% in the next 15 years. The ratio is already at 15% in Sweden, which will become effectively cashless in a few years time.

And just like Sweden, the machinery that makes cash available is disappearing across the UK. More than 3,000 bank branches have been shut down in Britain in just over four years, and are closing at a rate of almost 70 each month, according to Which?, a consumer association. Cash machines are vanishing at an even faster rate, at about 300 per month.

t would be naive to think we’ll be living in an economy of notes and coins in the mid- to long-term future,” Helen Prowse, a spokeswoman for digital payment company Square, said yesterday at a debate held by Monzo, a London-based fintech startup. “Digital payments are clearly the future,” Natalie Ceeney, chair of the UK’s Access to Cash Review, said at the same event. “The issue is that digital does not yet work for everyone.”

Some people think Sweden serves as an example of how not to get rid of cash. These days, most of the country’s banks don’t accept paper money or coins, and the same is true of many restaurants and stores, and even public toilets. The elderly, poor, and people with handicaps can be especially unprepared—and therefore vulnerable—when cash isn’t accepted.”

I think the whole picture is easy to find. What Which? is doing, and doing so well, is attempting to focus minds on the present danger: the progressive elimination of cash from our society. But for those who want more, the web is teeming with information.

Precisely. Focus on what is likely to be achievable.

I am hoping that this discussion is not about whether or not Which? campaigns for the protection of access to cash but about how it does so. I support a more responsible approach to the basis on which the campaign is being pressed. I feel it will have greater credibility with the government and the money authorities if it avoids false alarmism. The threat to cash is serious and requires a complex and nuanced response, not sensationalism. It is reasonable that we fully explore alternatives to ATM’s as providers of cash.

Perhaps; but when there’s some evidence that the forces of both the financial institutions and the government are brought to bear against the moderate voice (as they have been for many, many years) then it might be a case of fighting fire with at least a decent sized box of matches.

From the Guardian:

“All over the western world banks are shutting down cash machines and branches. They are trying to push you into using their digital payments and digital banking infrastructure. Just like Google wants everyone to access and navigate the broader internet via its privately controlled search portal, so financial institutions want everyone to access and navigate the broader economy through their systems.

Another aim is to cut costs in order to boost profits. Branches require staff. Replacing them with standardised self-service apps allows the senior managers of financial institutions to directly control and monitor interactions with customers.

Banks, of course, tell us a different story about why they do this. I recently got a letter from my bank telling me that they are shutting down local branches because “customers are turning to digital”, and they are thus “responding to changing customer preferences”. I am one of the customers they are referring to, but I never asked them to shut down the branches.

There is a feedback loop going on here. In closing down their branches, or withdrawing their cash machines, they make it harder for me to use those services. I am much more likely to “choose” a digital option if the banks deliberately make it harder for me to choose a non-digital option.

In behavioural economics this is referred to as “nudging”. If a powerful institution wants to make people choose a certain thing, the best strategy is to make it difficult to choose the alternative.

We can illustrate this with the example of self-checkout tills at supermarkets. The underlying agenda is to replace checkout staff with self-service machines to cut costs. But supermarkets have to convince their customers. They thus initially present self-checkout as a convenient alternative. When some people then use that alternative, the supermarket can cite that as evidence of a change in customer behaviour, which they then use to justify a reduction in checkout employees. This in turn makes it more inconvenient to use the checkout staff, which in turn makes customers more likely to use the machines. They slowly wean you off staff, and “nudge” you towards self-service.

Financial institutions, likewise, are trying to nudge us towards a cashless society and digital banking. The true motive is corporate profit. Payments companies such as Visa and Mastercard want to increase the volume of digital payments services they sell, while banks want to cut costs. The nudge requires two parts. First, they must increase the inconvenience of cash, ATMs and branches. Second, they must vigorously promote the alternative. They seek to make people “learn” that they want digital, and then “choose” it.

We can learn from the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci in this regard. His concept of hegemony referred to the way in which powerful parties condition the cultural and economic environment in such a way that their interests begin to be perceived as natural and inevitable by the general public. Nobody was on the streets shouting for digital payment 20 years ago, but increasingly it seems obvious and “natural” that it should take over. That belief does not come from nowhere. It is the direct result of a hegemonic project on the part of financial institutions.

We can also learn from Louis Althusser’s concept of interpellation. The basic idea is that you can get people to internalise beliefs by addressing them as if they already had those beliefs. Twenty years ago nobody believed that cash was “inconvenient”, but every time I walk into London Underground I see adverts that address me as if I was a person who finds cash inconvenient. The objective is to reverse-engineer a belief within me that it is inconvenient, and that cashlessness is in my interests. But a cashless society is not in your interest. It is in the interest of banks and payments companies. Their job is to make you believe that it is in your interest too, and they are succeeding in doing that.”

It is consumers who have embraced cashless payments – credit cards, debit cards, online banking, direct debits…….. I was never forced to abandon cash – I still, like most others, use it. I doubt “most others” would allow any supposed government conspiracy to take place. But, like other such posts, this is speculation.

It is fine to speculate about what might, or might not, be. However, publishing a balanced picture for people is necessary if responsible reporting is the aim, rather than pursuing an agenda at all costs.

I have looked through a number of LINK reports to find the source and context of the statement given in the introduction. All the reports I have read suggest cash will be with us for a long time and they, as far as their part in this is concerned, are developing initiatives to support its availability.

I’d suggest it is businesses, shops, cafes, and so on that will determine the future use of cash; as long as they are happy to accept cash it will need to be made available. As I understand it, it seems to be some London cafes that don’t like cash payments ; there is more to the UK than London…..

I am sure disagreements will continue on this topic. I hope, though, that facts will continue to be provided.

Malcolm: the balanced picture is out there-and very easy to find. And what that picture tells us–tells me, at any rate–is that there’s an inexorable move, initiated by the financial institutions, towards being a cashless society. Which? can see the big picture and it’s throwing its not insubstantial weight behind a campaign to ensure that politicians of all parties wake up to the inherent risk that one day we might not have cash at all.

This is a campaign: it’s a campaign launched after considerable thought and research by the guys at Which? and they’re doing exactly what we, as consumers, expect them to do.

The figures for disappearing ATMs are a symptom; by themselves, they’re not the big story, but they are indicative of what’s insidiously being foisted on the public.

And don’t forget that our government has its hands in the pockets of business.

Those of us of a cynical disposition – and it has been known – might take the view that the financial sector does not just wish to eliminate cash for economy and efficiency’s sake but to advance the use of payment processes that are more likely to lead us into debt since that generates a profit instead of a cost.

For years I thought that all governments have had their hands in my pockets.

To its credit, Which? abstains from blaming consumers directly for the onset of a cashless society whereas every other commentator ticks us off for going digital: understandable given that Which? has probably done more to promote the digital economy and lifestyle than any other single institution in the country!

From the Independent:

“The move to a completely cashless society could mean governments have ever more control over our wallets.

That’s the view of Megan McArdle, a columnist at Bloomberg, who said that cash provides a cushion between ordinary people and governments.

“Unmonitored resources like cash create opportunities for criminals. But they also create a sort of cushion between ordinary people and a government with extraordinary powers. Removing that cushion leaves people who aren’t criminals vulnerable to intrusion into every remote corner of their lives,” she wrote on Bloomberg View.

Countries like Korea and Sweden are looking at making the move towards a cashless society. But money experts fear that the complete disappearance of hard cash would not benefit ordinary people.

In a cashless society, the government might intercept any transaction in which someone tried to lend money to someone accused of a crime, Ms McArdle said.

She gives the example of a time when the State of New York nearly seized all the money from her bank account after losing her tax return for that year.”

All this, of course, doesn’t even touch on the issue of interbank computer failures. But of course, there’ll be none of those, will there?

From the Telegraph:

“We need to talk about cash. Remember those annoying little discs of copper and nickel that used to weigh down our pockets and purses? And what about the paper and polymer banknotes we once used to pay for bigger items, such as petrol or groceries?

We are fast becoming a cashless society. Debit card transactions overtook their cash equivalents in 2017. Millions of us now wave a contactless card to buy low-value items such as newspapers and coffee. Or we might use our cards to shop online.

The technology is improving all the time — there are even cards linked to smartphone apps, enabling us effortlessly to keep a detailed record of what we are spending and budget accordingly. Cash — who needs it?

However, our growing dependence on electronic payments and the digital economy is not without risk. Older people and lower income groups are at risk of financial exclusion. It can put small businesses at risk of losing customers. And as more of us leave cash behind, the potential fallout from cyber attacks and unexpected outages increases.

I know how this feels. I was on holiday in Canada during the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003, when 10m people in Ontario and 45m people across eight US states — including New York — were without power for up to two days because of a “software bug” in the power grid.

It was scary. Only those with cash could function. In Ontario, supermarkets, petrol stations and restaurants refused credit and debit cards. Banks closed. I had to lend our friends cash to buy food.

More recently, issues with the Visa payment system across Europe and IT problems at TSB and Tesco Bank have underlined this vulnerability.

For most of us, this is a temporary annoyance. But people who rely on cash are experiencing this problem in reverse. It is becoming more difficult, not to mention costly, for them to access notes and coins. “

At the moment we cannot have a cashless society because there are too many situations where there is no alternative – and countless examples have been given in the several Conversations on this site. But it is undeniable that society is gradually moving away from the regular use of cash even for such small purchases as a newspaper [Daily Telegraph – £2.50] or a cup of Costa coffee [Latte – £2.45]. There has been plenty of discussion about how to improve access to cash but that could well become a pointless exercise if its use becomes confined to occasional, optional or unusual circumstances.

If the banks want to quit cash entirely, or they find it an increasingly uneconomic obligation for which they will need to make a charge, then they must come up with a way of enabling small payments in situations where other payment methods are not suitable or will not work. Since they have not done that perhaps it should be a requirement that all payments of up to, say, £10 must be made in cash. This would keep cash in circulation and make its handling more regular and routine.

I can understand the feelings of those who are concerned about paying tradespeople in cash and would advocate outlawing it, but I strongly support being able to pay in cash if I want to for small works and services. It is no concern of mine how the trader deals with any tax liabilities; if they prefer to have cash I am happy to oblige. It does not necessarily mean that the cost is reduced. In any case, many small traders might not be liable for income tax in the first place; it is none of my business. I take the view that all money gets taxed at some point in the economic cycle, if not when we earn it then when we spend it. It might be a perverse argument from an ethical point of view, but pushing for all payments for works and services to be traceable will only accelerate the dash from cash and remove one of its chief justifications.

Paying for a small job in cash that charges £10-£15 an hour I don’t have a problem with.

My problem lies with those in mostly the building trade who want paying in cash that charge £50+ an hour, substantially more than our income that we have worked for and paid taxes. They also claim the VAT back on any purchases they have made on our behalf but charge us the full amount. They often brag their accountants get them out of paying taxes by claiming for things normal working people on lesser incomes cannot claim for. How many non-dodgy roofers are there in your area? Multiply them across the country and the government coffers are being denied income that is needed for our essential services.

I have had builders in to replace a couple of hip tiles on the garage roof and others re-pointing the roof verges on the house. Both issued me with an invoice showing the account number and sort code. Had they not done so I would have asked for this information or paid by cheque. I don’t want to support tradesmen that avoid tax and it’s something we can all do our bit to stamp out.

When I pay cash to a small trader, if requested to do so, I do not enquire whether or not it is for the avoidance of tax. Generally I expect to get an invoice and settle the bill with a cheque or bank transfer, but for small amounts for a few hours work at low rates, as Alfa says, I see cash as a quick and easy way to be helpful. Any builder or other trader established as a firm or company with employees, vehicles, VAT registration, etc, I would treat in the same way as other commercial operations with whom we do business.

Quite. There are some people who help me, or I trade with, whom I am quite happy to pay in cash. If they are going to fiddle their taxes they will have other ways of doing so. I wouldn’t presume to prejudge their honesty.

This illustrates the basic problem; if we refuse to use cash we hasten its possible demise. We cannot have it both ways.

This reminds me. I need to have a haircut shortly, well quite soon actually. As usual I shall take a bundle of notes and hope it will be sufficient. That the Chancellor of the Exchequer might end up short of a couple of quid bothers me not a jot; he should look offshore, sail into the e-Bay, or go up the Amazon for his revenues.

Fair comment, John. Assuming that the barber has a shop I trust their takings will be subject to taxation, but I don’t know.

Be careful what sort of a haircut you have. “A haircut is the difference between the current market value of an asset and the value ascribed to that asset for purposes of calculating regulatory capital or loan collateral. The amount of the haircut reflects the perceived risk of the asset falling in value in an immediate cash sale or liquidation.“. You will come out poorer after your trim, and you will have lost part of an asset (when it’s cold).

My barberess charges £11.50 and I give a £1.50 tip – and I don’t care whether it is declared or not. I pay in cash.

The friendly middle eastern gentleman who looks after my silvery locks only charges £!0 for a standard haircut but he applies a 10% discount because he seems to think I am a sexagenarian+. It must be the concessionary bus pass that peeks out of my wallet when I go to pay him that gives him that idea. I, too, administer a modest baksheesh to top up his meagre pittance. It’s good value; sometimes I have half an hour with the Sun and a cup of coffee while I wait as some spotty fifteen year old – who pays the same – gets the full teasy-weasy treatment and fancy coiffing. As he exits the salon the ugly blister pulls a Canaries beanie hat on over his half-shaven pate. I am in and out of the chair in about ten minutes so I am a favoured client.

Britain is racing towards a cashless society like a juggernaut without brakes. Experts say we could be cashless in nine years if the growth in contactless payment continues at its present pace and access to cash shrinks.
– From Business Telegraph 2019
– 9 years now?

We need to fit and then apply the brakes because left to its own momentum the retreat from cash will accelerate at an ever increasing rate with harmful consequences for many in society.

After the access to cash campaign the dominant issue will be access to petrol where there is no official resistance to its removal, in fact the opposite. Whether it will be the cash machine or the pumps [or the firewood] at our local filling station that will be the first to go is the riddle.

I think the next five years will see a dramatic and overwhelming change in life as we know it but it is almost outside our control.

I don’t think anybody has actually tried to identify the realistic tipping point at which the decline in the use of cash for payment transactions will become absolutely terminal and irreversible because the low volume involved will be grossly uneconomic for universal support. The practical end of cash availability could be well in advance of the theoretical point or a policy-predicted point and be a major political difficulty at the time it occurs. So will it happen before or after the next General Election? My guess is 2024 unless something changes very soon.

Statistics from UK Finance state that cash was used for 34% of all payments in 2017, down from 61% a decade earlier. If, as I suspect, the rate of decline is accelerating [partly because the overall number of transactions is rising and partly in line with the trend] then we could be down to 20% by around about 2021/2022. I suggest that is bordering on the unsustainable. Not only will the number of cash transactions fall sharply but their average value will decrease making them even more uneconomical to service.

From the LINK “Preserving Access to Cash” report referenced earlier:

”UK Finance predicts a fall in cash usage from 28% in 2018 to only 9% by 2028. However, this would still leave between three and four billion cash payments in 2028, suggesting that even in a “near-cashless” economy there will be demand for cash and a requirement for a cash distribution network………

However, it must be expected that at some point the decline of cash usage will slow as we approach a point where all those who are using alternatives to cash are already doing so and there will be left a core of cash users who will never give up cash or are only likely to do so over a much longer period. This slowing in the fall in cash usage is expected to occur first in areas with currently high rates of cash decline, such as London, while other areas where the rate of decline is slower may “catch up”. However, how long other regions may take to catch up is unclear and it is quite possible they may never reduce their cash usage to levels seen in, for example, London because of social, economic or geographical factors. Indeed, cash usage has always varied between areas, with Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North West of England and East London being traditional high cash use areas compared to the rest of the UK.

That is probably a more reliable forecast than my projection which was based on the notion that cash transactions will decline at an accelerating rate rather than at a slower rate as UK Finance predicts. That is predicated on the likelihood that the decline will reach a baseline beyond which it cannot continue because the remaining users have no alternative. It will depend to a considerable degree on how accessible cash remains. If, in line with the trends, the number of cash points continues to fall and they are withdrawn at a faster rate than now, and more businesses refuse to deal in cash, then I cannot see how cash can continue in use as its supply dries up. So long as there is trade there has to be a medium of exchange so something has to be put in place of cash for those people without bank accounts or other means of using money.

While my suggestion that ready access to cash will cease in around two years’ time might not turn out to be true it appears to be in line with what Which? is quoting as LINK’s estimate: “that without government intervention, cash as we know it today could be completely gone in just two year’s time“.

Indeed. Worrying, really.

When we talk about ” we want the government to legislate to protect access to cash” perhaps we could be explicit about what we want that legislation to contain.

I expect the new chancellor in a new government will have a number of things to put forward in the budget. I hope, however, he will wait for reports, such as from the JACS Group, rather than make some knee-jerk reaction to certain pressures. I’d like to see a properly considered outcome.

Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group: terms of reference
HM Treasury has established and will chair the JACS Group, bringing together the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England (BoE). This is within the context of the Government’s policy to safeguard access to cash for those who need it, whilst supporting digital payments

Published 10 June 2019
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/joint-authorities-cash-strategy-group-terms-of-reference

One thing could be an obligation on banks and other deposit-holding organisations to provide cash to account-holders on demand up to, say, £1,000, and higher amounts in cash with notice.

I don’t really know what my contract with my current account provider is. I have always assumed it means that I have the right to take my money out in the form of cash on reasonable terms but perhaps that is not the case. There is certainly no requirement to provide a given number of branches or a distribution of branches that reflects the customer base. Longer opening times, Saturday opening and ATM’s have been provided in order to meet historic demand for payments and withdrawals; they are not a guaranteed or obligated service so the implications of the move away from cash could be far more serious than we are currently anticipating.

I don’t have enough time to paste excerpts from this document, but it is worth a read:
Considering the incentives to deploy free-to-use ATMs in the LINK network. Review of the structure of LINK interchange fees

Has Which? asked to be involved in these discussions?

Thank you, Alfa. An interesting and well-presented document.

I hope Which? responded to the PSR’s consultation. I cannot remember whether the consultation document was referenced by Which? at the time it was published.

I agree. Sensibly researched and presented information is key to informing this debate. Here is another relatively recent document from the PSR https://www.psr.org.uk/sites/default/files/media/PDF/PSR-Access-to-Cash-full-report-July-2019_0.pdf

As is typical in flood topics, I fear that those who seek to enhance their support for this campaign with poorly researched or argued claims and little or no supporting evidence aren’t really seeing the real issues here.

Of course we will need some form of currency in order to buy things, pay accounts and accumulate money from wages and pensions and investments. This will always be expressed in pounds sterling and the coinage will remain the same denominations. The difference is critical. If counting out physical cash is not an option, the only alternative is to have some sort of token that represents that cash. The only token that can do this is one with a digital application and an internet or telephone based link to an organisation that translates the movement of money into virtual cash and moves this virtual cash to it’s final destination for that transaction. This means that instead of passing real money to the bank and letting it change into virtual money to get to its destination, the virtual currency starts its journey in the shop, or the wage packet/ salary slip. With real money, collectors don’t take the same notes that were paid in to the bank since all ten pounds are the same wherever they are, but with real money, the end product is the same as the start. The electronic bit is ensuring that one is entitled to it. What has been said by several people is that virtual money relies on the virtual system working at all times. When it doesn’t there is no alternative.
The convenience of the credit card has been universally welcomed as a partner to cash for local shopping and charities and clubs. Anyone wanting to spend virtual local money has to have it on their card to start with and that means some kind of account and some kind of method of getting virtual money into it from the virtual wallet that somehow fills up with more virtual money. Virtual thieves don’t have to pick pockets to get it.
Currently vast amounts of paper notes travel the country by person and by bank and treasury distribution. In our virtual society, there would be no money moving around, just digits. I wonder how that will feel? What kind of fraud will that generate when there is nothing to be counted except computer code?

I must admit I would feel better if there were a reserve currency in paper and coin for when [not if] things go wrong. One of the implications of the retreat from cash is that banks and building societies will no longer need to have physical branches on the high streets – everything can be done from remote computer and customer service centres, but there would be a necessity for at least one place in each population centre where physical money can be issued against the digital key [in whatever form it takes]. Perhaps that should be a government or – preferably – a Bank of England Bureau [although the supermarkets would likely bid for the concession].

I agree, John – and paper is right too, not these infernal plastic imitations that are so easy to either cling so you give a plurality for a single, or so they slick their way out of your pocket to someone else’s waiting win. For the first time in my life I lost ~£150 to a pocket slip-out a few months ago. The new style 5s and 10s were inside a roll of 20s. They parted company – all the 5s and 10s disappeared while the 20s remained safely in the pocket.

It has been suggested that the loss of ATMs in rural areas may be because the reducing use of cash makes them uneconomic to run. Nevertheless, most cities and some towns (ours being a good example) are very well supplied. Our branch of Morrisons, which is not big by supermarket standards, has no fewer than four ATMs.

Perhaps one or two of them could be relocated to the highlands of Scotlands.

There are LINK initiatives to install ATMs where there is a community request. However they cost money to run. We should not get hung up on ATMs bring the only way to access cash. Others ways have been proposed that could help far more people.

Yes, I mentioned that 450 requests had been made according to information provided by Oscar.

Apart from the odd example of community centres hosting bank and Post Office branches I am not aware of new initiatives in action. I see it as a responsibility of banks to provide their customers with access to cash and probably the cheapest way to achieve this is via ATMs.

I wonder how much it costs to install and refill an ATM.

LINK have a protected ATM programme to help prevent closure when it is more than 1km from another. They have substantially higher payments for ATMs in vulnerable areas. They have an initiative inviting communities to apply for an ATM for their area. They ensure that the smallest of high streets with only 5 business will have an ATM.

There are proposals to use local cash businesses to recycle money. If adopted, this would bring access to cash to many more people than ATMs do, and at very little cost – far less than an ATM.

In 1986, when cash (and cheques) was king, access to cash was through around 22 000 bank and building society branches. In 2019, thanks to banks making arrangements with post offices for their account holders, there were around 22 000 branches giving access to cash. On top of that were 44 000 free to use ATMs. All against a background of a huge reduction in the use of cash.

We will continue to need cash and I doubt it will be lost any time soon. But we need to recognise change and find good ways of dealing with it.

Can you give us examples of local cash businesses the have started to provide cash in the past year? Unless. this has started it seems little more than wishful thinking.

As I have said before, one set up would require a regulatory change and a payment system so it is not something that will appear without organisation. The proposal is made in reports including the Access to Cash report, in the LINK report “Providing access to cash directly through retailers’ tills via LINK has the potential to increase the number of places where cash can be accessed, provided retailers can be fairly rewarded to offer the service. LINK is working with regulators to seek to remove the regulatory obstacles that currently prevent this from happening.

It is not wishful thinking but constructive proposals to address a problem and give a better outcome. A positive approach to changing times is needed. I support those who think about solutions.

It’s nearly a year since that report was published and I don’t see any evidence of action yet. Only time will tell whether the banks will pay retailers to provide cash. It might cost more than providing ATMs.

As the reports say they are proposals and we all know these things take time to agree and implement. Presumably a fee will be paid to participating retailers when they issue cash from their till. I do not see why that might cost more than buying, installing, maintaining and ATM. Quite the opposite.

Surely we should be supporting proposals rather than continually condemning them when it is quite clear the cash landscape is changing and we need to deal with it. It is fantasy to believe that everywhere in the UK can be provided with an ATM that is within convenient distance of everyone. Therefore we need to look at alternatives. Cash access from small consumer businesses has the potential to be spread throughout the UK, including the Highlands, and be available to far more of the population than can access cash now. Do we not want that? I think it is a proposal worth examining and worthy of support.

A great many retailers including our modest village shop have ATMs rather than providing cashback or other ways of providing cash. Next time I’m in the highlands I will do some investigation.

Can you give us examples of local cash businesses the have started to provide cash in the past year? Unless. this has started it seems little more than wishful thinking.” Having talked to LINK who are also discussing this, I was pointed to this trial by Visa. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cardsloans/article-7912935/New-Visa-incentive-shops-cashback-customers.html
At last – a real cash lifeline for the High Street: New Visa incentive for shops to give cashback to customers
Scheme marks first time all UK’s banks will pay small stores to offer cashback
It will target more than 400 postcodes in remote and rural parts of the UK
As an incentive to sign up, shops will get 20p each time they provide cashback

….

Initially, customers will have to make a purchase using their debit card in order to get cashback.

But Visa is hoping to roll out a separate scheme where shoppers don’t have to buy anything by the end of 2020.

I had not seen anything about this happening but will look out for more information. Being able to get cash without making a purchase is certainly the way to go.

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.

I have left a car park because the only way to pay was via a phone app.

A search tells me Google phones are supported for 2 years, Apple 5 years, Samsung 3 years. My Samsung is 4 in a few months time and certainly does not replacing yet. That means even if I trusted it to make financial transactions it would not be safe to do so and there must be millions of people with equally unsafe phones.

That is potentially a lot of fraud or the premature end to a lot of tech.

So not only do we need to protect paying in cash, we need to protect paying with credit cards otherwise we will end up like China who pay for everything with their phones.

Sheela says:
26 February 2020

Cash is essential for the vulnerable and elderly. Small shopkeepers need to keep prices down to survive and cannot afford to take very small card payments.