/ 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. 


I like using money I can see and hold. It means I cannot overspend, I do not have to use a card for small amounts, I do not want to use a card that can encourage me to overspend, could get lost, or be hacked. I do not want everything I buy to be logged and accessible for others to know.

I wonder if there are now any physical shops that do not record all our comings and goings on CCTV?

The only way to eliminate cash is to make everything free.

Possibly so, but employers would then have no reason to keep paying those extortionate operating costs called wages. I can foresee objections.

Sue G. says:
12 March 2020

Yes, but if everything were free we wouldn’t need wages.

The UK cannot legislate for foreign countries from which we import many essentials. They will need to be paid in money for their goods and services.

Different products and services, for example domestic appliances and insurance, have different specifications and values. Money is a means of representing value according to the desired function of the item and its utility to the individual.

Mary Cook says:
6 March 2020

Cash must be retained. I am involved in raising money for many charities, car boot sales, garden openings, cake sales at schools., plant and produce sales outside peoples homes., etc. Children can be given £1 or £2 to support these causes, bank cards will not fill the gaps and many parents have to rely on others to collect their children from school. Many of these fund raisers are in rural areas where there is no, or insufficient signal, for card machines to work. It is also imperative for cash to exist that so that vulnerable people can remain independent and those with problems of spending within their limits can see exactly where their money is going. Cash acts as a safety net for those trapped in abusive relationships. Governments, supermarkets etc., would love to eliminate cash so that they can have even more control and knowledge about how we live our lives.

You will no doubt have seen or read that the government has just announced that the Budget on 11 March will contain measures to mandate the availability of cash and look at other ways of moving cash around to supply people’s needs in all areas.

I don’t suspect the government really wants to eliminate cash so it “can have even more control and knowledge about how we live our lives” – the existing systems and processes give them all the information they need already. It is the banks that wish to do away with cash so the real reasons are logistical and economic: cash is an expensive commodity to provide, supply, and secure and the public at large have stopped using it as much as they used to. This is illustrated by a graph in the following BBC News item –

Ms C W Thomson says:
11 March 2020

I so agree with you. I couldn’t think about how many ways that cash matters. It matters to me and you just explained it perfectly.

Eric Franklin says:
12 March 2020

Without disputing what Mary Cook is saying here, but adding a comment to it, one of the main points in favour of cash is that for most everyday transactions transmitting the money via an electronic system would be grossly uneconomic. Simply handing coins over in fair exchange to someone who hands over a good to us is far simpler, and far cheaper. This is the best system by far for local sales and purchases. It could cost far more than the money obtained to have to travel miles to the nearest source of cash, such as a machine, even if you knew where it was. These comments are too brief, of course, with much left unstated/unexplained, but they are are by no means the only arguments in favour of retaining the use of cash. Eric Franklin

– For the elderly/housebound to pay for shopping brought by neighbours.
– To pay for small individual services eg windowcleaner, gardener, domestic cleaner.
– For childrens’ pocket money, enabling them to learn the visible value of money and how to use it, which would not be learnt by plastic transactions.
– For charity collection boxes in streets and shops.
– For jumble sales, village fete stalls, car boot sales.
– For private small ad. sales of unwanted items.
– For car parking machines for those of us who have no technology devices, eg smart phone.

Adele says:
7 March 2020

When using cash you know exactly how much you have spent and are less likely to overspend.

I think it is just as easy to know exactly how much you have spent with any payment method.

The problem with going out with only twenty pounds in your pocket is that you might see something you need or want that would cost £25 so you can’t buy it.

The difficulty is usually not of an arithmetical nature but a question of self-discipline. Half the population seems to be saying they don’t have any.

I believe that using cash can help people be more aware of day to day spending, which many have said in these Conversations. I’m a couple of weeks into an experiment to find out how well I would cope if I switched from cash to card for small purchases. I have receipts for most purchases and could add them up easily, but at present I have no feeling for how much I have spent so far. Had I started off with a known amount of cash in my wallet, a quick look would show me how much I had left and it would be obvious how much I had spent.

You can certainly see your money slipping away when you use cash. I tend to use it for all purchases in small and independent shops and for small traders up to about £50 but it does mean replenishing the wallet fairly frequently. Above £100 I would always use a credit card.

I suppose I have never lived more than half a mile from a cashpoint so cannot imagine what it would be like to be entirely reliant on cash. A lot of my spending tends to be on-line or automatically deducted nowadays but I diarise all non-standard debits as soon as I receive notification of the amount.

I expect many of the people who prefer to use cash might, unfortunately, be averse to using on-line banking. The banks need to do more to help everyone get the best out of their banking and payment arrangements whatever method they prefer.

I used to use cash for smaller transactions and until very recently had only once used a card in a pub, except when buying a meal. I’m not sure why, in the days of contactless cards, paying by card did not seem right. In our micro pub the staff are keen on customers using cards because it saves them work. Businesses are not allowed to make card surcharges, but I would be happy to pay in the way that minimises costs for them.

I can understand why some people are averse to online banking. It is an unknown and there is a risk that they could lose their money.

I have just renewed my car tax online. I did not need cards or cash because I just filled out an online direct debit form.

Now that both insurance and Mot records are held online, I did not have to do anything to present physical paper certificates for verification.

That’s interesting and I see that setting up a direct debit is a continuous authority to take payments, until cancelled. Presumably the intention is to reduce the number of untaxed vehicles on the road.

Eric Franklin says:
12 March 2020

Derek P makes valid points, but they are not the whole truth of the matter. Electronic methods are indeed very useful, but for local and small money-exchanges they do not make economic or any other sense. We need to conserve a variety of methods of transferring value to each other. One does not go to the local shop in an articulated lorry, but in one’s economical runabout, whether two wheeled, four wheeled, or bipedal. Horses for courses, as the old saying has it. Eric Franklin

Eric, my comments were only intended to point out that cash is not a viable option for some payments and also is not the best option for many payments. As you said, it is case of horses for courses.

Cash is completely useless for online payments and is also not now needed in any of my local shops or pubs. That said, all of my local food shops have free cashpoints, as a further service for their customers.

Also, on the rare occasions when I take the bus rather than walk, I find paying by contactless card to be far more convenient than paying by cash.

The bus companies prefer not to have to count and bank heaps of coins notes and provide the drivers with loads of change. They are heavily promoting contactless payments in my area for security and speed of boarding. Many people use their smart phones to pay on the bus, a smaller number use their debit cards, concessionary bus pass holders use their cards, and a handful pay with cash.

Our buses introduced the option of contactless payments over a year ago. Not many pay by cash now, but the option remains for those who want to use it.

I agree that we have to keep access to cash available at all times, having said that it is just as easy to get a mini statement from an ATM in order to find out what your previous 8 (I thin it’s 8) transactions were thereby seeing quickly what you have spent and what you have available!

I’ve made the same point when pointing out the benefits of keeping ATMs, Esther. At present I’m experimenting with a banking app that lets me see about 80 transactions very easily. I’m none too keen on using mobile banking but would certainly use an app that just let me look at my balance and recent transactions.

I’ve recently switched to using mobile banking apps on smartphones.

I do find it a lot more convenient to just get out my phone rather than go to a suitable PC, as I’ll quite likely have to wait while the latter starts up. Using a phone also usually allows me to check things like bank balances if I’m out and about, even if I’ve not a PC with me.

There is obviously a degree of trust involved in using any online banking tools. From what I’ve seen of online scams and hacks, I think iPhones are probably the most secure platform to use and Windows PC’s are probably the least secure platform to use.

I’m a bit uncomfortable about how easy it is to use my banking app, on my basic iPhone 11 which uses facial recognition. One tap on the app icon, look at the screen and within a second or two it shows me what is in my account and gives me access to many of the facilities provided by online banking on a computer.

Owen williams says:
9 March 2020

Someone managed to use my card details to buy a large number of things in tesco. Cash is more reliable , it makes you use your Brain a bit to calculate and be less matter-of -fact. It can be faster to pay for things in shops, it slows things up a bit when the person in font of you in a queue forgets his or her card password or taps it in wrongly. Small things are easily payed for and laundrettes have slots for coins. There’s only one card to loose but you can have a few places for cash , purse wallet etc. Cash should always be used by people.

karen massey says:
10 March 2020

why have banks got enough money to pay staff a bonus for doing their job – which they have a salary for in any case- yet have no money to keep branches open? if the government stopped bonuses and diverted that money into actual bank branches or free cash machines then there would not be a problem

Gra says:
11 March 2020

And so continues the drug trade which runs on cash and establishments paying people wages tax free by cash and not through the proper channels. Well done everyone!

Maureen Deacon says:
11 March 2020

I would also like you to protect the use of cheques. I cannot imagine phoning loved ones and telling them their present is in the bank. They joy of receiving is lost as is the quality of life. I always pay by cheque as it is safest for me. I do not like transferring money because if a mistake is made by me with the account number the money is lost. I go out of my way to use the safest method. Cash or cheques and no worry of scamming. Midlothian Council have asked us to pay on line for the brown bin collection. Offering us the use of the library. It is cruel to expect us all to use online payments, especially as many people do not understand or want to understand this system. I definitely don’t. As a member of the older generation we were taught to look after money and not to overspend. It is too easy these days to get into debt and the upset and trouble it causes. When the debt goes too far people have ended their lives. Shame on Midlothian Council. The local Conservative Councillor helped me to access payment via cheque this year and last year for which I am extremely grateful. To force people to use online payments is disgraceful. They expect us to use local facilities and then encourage us to go on line. So thank you WHICH for campaigning for the many of use who try to teach our children and grandchildren the value of money. The thrill my grandchildren get when I occasionally give them money to spend, other than at their birthdays. That is precious.

Pauline Touati says:
11 March 2020

There are so many people that are housebound that need money drawn for them so they can pay for the services that other people provide for them i.e shopping, etc. I am so pleased that this campaign has succeeded.

Removing CASH from our daily lives would be another step in the wrong direction for OUR country and it’s people…..

The reason cash will always be there is drugs, wake up people, America would collapse with out the drug money, the cia are the biggest dealers, they run the cartels.

diana cooper says:
11 March 2020

When there is no cash world governments have total control over our personal and economic lives. I find this scary and buy as many things by cash as possible to maintain authority over my life.

Ellen Clarke says:
11 March 2020

As a pensioner I find having cash for the smaller items I require much easier to manage and I don’t spend too much each month on extras, as I am on a very limited budget also it’s easier to give grandchildren cash for birthdays etc.,

The amount of times I have been to places where they can’t accept card payments.. Because the ‘Systems down’, ‘There’s no signal’!! Thank God for Cash.. I still use cash a lot, and prefer to do so.. For instance I don’t have a smartphone, and don’t want one.

I am a Newsagent and though we accept any payment method, it is more expensive for us to accept by any card method or contactless mobiles as we get charged up to 2.5% of the sale which we cannot pass on to the customer. This makes a significant cost to my wage. Other retailers sometimes pass this on through higher prices on their goods.
We also find that sale transaction times are slower than by accepting cash as we have to enter the card details into our machine and also the till and have to wait for confirmation of the sale.
There is also an added cost of the till rolls for receipts which we have to stand.
The next thing Which need to look into are the cost to retailers transaction cost, since we cannot pass on these on.
Have you also noticed that the Inland revenue and DVLA don’t accept credit cards for payments because of the cost incurred.

Hettie M jones says:
11 March 2020

I have never used a cash point after seeing in a town centre an elderly lady being casually pushed over and having her card snatched. Cash enables more disciplined control of what you do have rather than a dream of what you think you have .It is a A better route to having the means to buywhat you desirewithout debt..

Graham says:
11 March 2020

Whilst i use cash a lot and cringe at the sight of someone paying for something for less than £10 by card, cash is the tool of the drugs trade and those exploiting workers by paying them in an underhand fashion i.e. tax free and not through the books. Spare a thought before you claim this is a “victory”.

Odin1123 says:
11 March 2020

The fife local authority has just indicated that it is going to introduce a fixed charge for use of its electric car recharging stations on top of what you will pay for the electricity you use.

The local authority will have considerable costs in providing and maintaining electricity charging points. These costs will have to be recovered somehow and the only sources are either the council tax [as for street lighting which benefits everyone] or a user charge [imposed on those who need to charge their vehicles on the public highway]. I tend to think the latter is the fairer solution but whether it should be a fixed charge or be related to the amount of electric current consumed is worth debating.

Tom says:
11 March 2020

I was suddenly taken into hospital by ambulance recently. The doctors and nurses did a sterling (sorry!) job on me.
I was allowed to leave a few hours later. My only option was to get a taxi home, but I had no cash on me. Luckily, there was an ATM in the hospital foyer. Unluckily, it charged me £0.99 to actually use it.

Shahinakhan2207@gshahinakhan mail.com says:
11 March 2020

I need to have cash as husband cannot remember pin and makes it difficult to shop with card . Why should we pay charges to draw our money out. !!! So many machines r charging money which is not acceptable.

Yes, I am not sure the government’s decision to legislate to ensure the survival of cash has dealt satisfactorily with the question of charging to use cash machines. If that is outlawed then a lot of cashpoints will disappear.