/ Money

Win! Government will protect access to cash

I wrote to the Chancellor as part of our week of action to save bank branches and ATMs across the country. Today, the government has acted. Cash will be protected.

11/03/2020: Win! Cash will be protected

It’s been confirmed in today’s Budget that the government will bring forward legislation to protect access to cash and ensure that the UK’s cash infrastructure in sustainable in the long-term.

Read the full announcement

Thank you to the thousands of people across the UK who joined us in calling for the Treasury to act, which culminated in my visit to Downing Street to deliver a brief case full of your stories.

Which? CEO Anabel Hoult drops off the comments submitted to Which? Conversation to No 10 Downing Street

We know that the cash system faces irreversible damage within the next two years, so the government must swiftly press ahead with these plans to legislate, which must include putting a single regulator in charge of protecting cash.

It’s vital that today’s commitment is quickly turned into action.

We look forward to working with the government, regulators and industry to ensure that cash is protected for as long as it is needed.

26/02/2020: My letter to Rishi Sunak

Dear Chancellor,

The UK’s ATM network is on the verge of collapse.

In the past two years, 9,000 free cash machines and 1,200 bank branches have vanished.

We’re even being charged a fee to access our own money at 25% of the cash machines that remain.

Understandably, millions of people are unhappy about this. They rely on cash. For many of them, cash is the only option.

If things carry on as they are, cash as we know it will cease to exist in just two years.

Yes, digital payments are good, but right now the UK isn’t ready to go cashless. The government promised to maintain our access to cash.

As the new Chancellor, this budget is your opportunity to turn that promise into action.

Which? is the UK’s largest consumer organisation. We stand ready with our 1.3 million members and supporters to work with you, to protect cash for the millions of people who need it.

If you don’t act now, free access to our own cash will soon be gone forever.

Yours faithfully,
Anabel Hoult, CEO, Which?.


Do you feel that the Government should make sure cash is protected in the next budget?

Yes (100%, 2,739 Votes)

No (0%, 12 Votes)

Not sure (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,752

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Why do you want the government to protect cash?  Tell us why in the comments below, and we’ll share them alongside Anabel’s letter this Friday. 

Roy Dunford says:
29 February 2020

Cash must be maintained as a a viable option for all, especially vulnerable groups and organisations that rely on these transactions and for whom cashless payment is not an option. Technology is not 100% foolproof and failures will leave a society solely reliant on electronic payment at extreme risk. Cash must remain.

I can see charities losing out due to the demise of collection tins. Also, we live in a rural area. My daughter recently bought 6 bales of hay from a farmer, standing in his barn in the middle of nowhere, with poor mobile phone signal. How was she supposed to pay him without using cash? Is my window cleaner supposed to carry a payment machine around with him, as well as his ladders and bucket? If an inner London pub wants to go cashless, good luck to them, and the punters can always go to the pub round the corner. Us rural dwellers have less choices.

not having cash available to use and relying on technology is so flawed as for a start it needs energy, power grid goes down business stops. Never happen you say! ask a terrorist, a fraudster, one causes anarchy the other gets rich. Technology is not as reliable as people may think it breaks down or not signal in remote areas. Plus internet security is not great banks struggle with that on a daily basis.
People need to have cash, as not having it takes away freedom to spend in places and businesses like car boots church sales farm shops.
I can see that the poor in this country could suffer. People will return to barter and a whole new kind of black market will open up. which will create a whole new criminal element. I could go on and on about why not being able to use cash is a bad idea.
Technology is flawed….Cash, Money, Gold etc. have been around for thousands of years, proven to work and been a successful way to trade.

Steve March says:
29 February 2020

The most important point is that cash is anonymous, while other forms of payment are not. This may be ok in democracy but disastrous in a dictatorship. If there is only cashless payments in a dictatorship/Totalitarian state then that government will know what everyone is paying for, when, where & how much. They would if you critise the government, have the power to close peoples accounts & prevent people from receiving payments, buying anything, including food; a frightening prospect.
Think what tremendous extra power the N***s would have had in the 30s if all payments were electronic: & don’t say it couldn’t happen again, there are lots of objectionable governments around the world.

A Beken says:
1 March 2020

Without readies I will not be able to pay a tradesperson in cash so that I get a cheaper price and they avoid paying the full whack of tax. Everything will cost more and the government will be trousering more of my money to fritter away on atom bombs and aircraftless carriers

That’s a good argument for doing away with cash.

This is not about diddling the taxman but helping those who will face genuine difficulties or hardship if cash becomes almost unobtainable.

Pay your taxes. More funding to help people in genuine difficulties.

I am retired and live in a small village, we lost our bus service a year ago. What happens when I am no longer able to drive? I do shop on line but my neighbours get the odd item for me when I am unwell or run out. Sometimes we order items in larger quantities because its cheaper, then share the cost. I pay cash for the window cleaner, the odd job man who occasionally undertakes tasks in the garden I can no longer manage and all those small jobs a professional considers too small and doesn’t respond to telephone calls or emails.

I use money whenever I can, I could use my card for purchases but I strongly believe in using cash for items up to £50 as not all of the older generation are comfortable with digital technology and like to pay using cash.
I know the cashless day is coming but I will resist that way of conducting my business as long as I can.

Brent says:
1 March 2020

We need access to our own cash and should not have to pay to get it.

cash should be protected for those without bank accounts, they do exist!! for use in places like markets, where a card costs the trader money. for some of the smaller shops. it helps you budget, if not enough money in purse cannot buy.
The free ATM are a boon to a lot of older folk.

Most of the requests to Link for new ATMs have been as a result of publicity by Which: “LINK is committed to protecting free access to cash for as long as consumers want it. The new Community Request an ATM Initiative has had 3,400 ATM requests. Almost 3,000 of these requests have been made via Which? and just under 1% of the total came from elected representatives, with the rest from members of the public or site owners.” https://www.link.co.uk/media/1593/monthly-report-feb-2020-final.pdf

Charlotte Adair says:
2 March 2020

We should not have to pay a penalty/tax/fee for accessing our own money. The banks got away with a lot in recent years and who covered the cost….we did. Interest rates are currently rubbish yet the corresponding loan rate does not reflect that. The banks are being allowed to “win” no matter what they do and the government is content to allow this to continue.

To be clear, there does not appear to be any proposal by the banks to charge customers for accessing their own money. Even if every cash machine is removed [which is extremely unlikely], it will still be possible to withdraw money from a branch of your own bank free of charge – although there could be a higher cost in travelling further to and from a branch. At present banks do not charge directly for handling cheques, paying direct debits and standing orders, or for keeping our money safe. Of course all that could change if the banks are required to maintain branches and cash points where use has declined and they have become uneconomical to operate. Which?’s campaign is vital, but we must be careful what we wish for.

Joe Catterall says:
6 March 2020

The IMF have looked at negative interest rates to stimulate the economy (I.e. force people to spend not save) with rates from -2 to -4 percent. This would be undermined if people can withdraw their money and thus not pay the banks to hold it. So in a cashless society we would all be hostages to the banks.
Also,I believe their is a currently a bill before the Australian parliament to outlaw cash transactions over $10,000.

Colin Aslett says:
2 March 2020

It is a fundamental right to carry and spend cash. It is easy, quick and does not rely on technology. If we have a legal tender we must have the right to hold it and spend it in whatever format we want.
I am the treasurer for 2 Golf Societies often having 25+ golfers turn up for a days golf & food at golf clubs around the South East. All the members pay cash to me on the day and I settle up with the golf club depending on how much golf each member has played and number of meals ( some are there all day)! It is simple and it works. Some days I have £1500+ on me before paying the golf club.
However we are trialling this year for the first time online payments ahead of the day by the members and bank transfer by card by me – to the golf club. Some members have insisted on retaining cash as their businesses use cash. So I anticipate 50% – 70% online and remainder in cash. We will have to see how it goes over the next few years. If it proves too chaotic/difficult we will revert back to cash. I suspect this is the same with a lot of clubs and societies handling small sums from many members.

John Roberts says:
2 March 2020

It is not only unscrupulous governments that may track your spending habits. Companies can also track your regular transactions.Do I really want others to know what I spend my money on, including where, when and how often? It is almost impossible to avoid but I would like to have the choice. Should they really want this information they could ask for it. Will children need a bank account and debit card to receive and spend pocket money? Cash is very personal and very important.

It is obvious from the hundreds of responses to this Conversation that cash is necessary for all the smaller scale transactions – mostly under £100 I should imagine. I cannot believe the government or companies really want to know about these payments; however, they could well be interested in our major purchases and expenditures which in most cases are made with cheques, direct debits, credit cards and on-line for all of which there is a perfect data trail.

Colin Gardner says:
2 March 2020

The banks are already making major savings from ATMs because they no longer have to handle cheques which was how we used to draw cash from the bank. So having gained once from ATMs they now want a second dividend by charging us to take out our own money. We should not tolerate this behaviour from an industry which demonstrated during the recent crash that it has zero integrity with our money.

Situl Shah says:
2 March 2020

Cash is a fundamental source of currency for most people and should be protected, despite the convenience of newer technology. For many, cash is vital and helps with basic arithmetic, home budgeting, and general money management.
Innovations in security and technology can help address the issues of money laundering and other illegal activities.

John Emmott says:
3 March 2020

ATM does not pay out coins
Emergencies – card terminal not working / card not to hand
Daily paper
Cash for someone else to buy your shopping
Amateur sports club refreshments and fees
Snooker and pool table light slot machine
Charity donations
Public toilets slot machines
Small group meal where individuals pay their own share
Farmer’s markets / Car-boot sales / Charity Christmas church stalls
Lunch clubs
Room / refreshment charges
Car park
Etc. Etc.

We will end up even more at the mercy of the faceless Banks and paying more for using their robotic systems which fraudsters are able to manipulate

Plus we will have to use the latest expensive gadget to try and keep up

This morning in our of our rare trips to an M&S store at the coast, I asked the cashier what percentage of transactions were done still using cash. What he knew for sure was that that morning more than half of the purchases were cash only.

Allan Scott says:
4 March 2020

when one is obliged to use payment methods other than simple cash the vendor may, as is often the case, harvest details of the payee to their advantage. One such is the possibility of passing on the thus gleaned information to another; this may be entirely without the foreknowledge of the payee so completely beyond their influence or control.

That should not occur where the purchase is transacted via a card terminal. You say it is “often the case” that the vendor harvests details of the “payee” [I think you meant the ‘payer’] but despite the millions of daily card transactions there does not seem to be much evidence of it being “often the case”, or that there are many cases of identification fraud by this means. Previous payment methods like cheques were less secure than card payment and carrying large amounts of cash for all your spending brings with it other risks.

… as well as the reasons given in other comments above for keeping cash, it’s good for mental arithmetic and keeping our brains agile – not to mention, for teaching it to our kids!

Ian Cockburn says:
5 March 2020

We need to keep cash, looking more at the elderly and vulnerable. A lot of people still like doing transactions over the counter, more so elderly. Also giving personal service at the bank. Yes, things have changed big time over the years but a lot of elderly people (and younger people) still prefer to do the transaction over the counter. Not everybody has the money to just use plastic in all transactions. Using cash is also good for the brain – bit of mental arithmetic. Having cash means that we can monitor our money better i.e. what we spend it on, how much we spend and watch where it goes. Kids also would benefit, again getting the brain ticking over, doing a bit mental arithmetic, getting the grey matter going. KEEP CASH – DEFINITELY.