/ Money

We want the freedom to pay. Our way.

While there has been a decline in its use, cash remains immensely popular and important for many people. We’re worried there’s a growing tendency to overlook the important role that cash still plays.

For some, cash is a day-to-day necessity they couldn’t live without. For most of us it’s a vital backup when digital payment systems fail.

Cash is a reliable and trusted payment method and that’s why we’re calling for the UK’s cash infrastructure to be protected for as long as people need it.

Freedom to pay. Our Way.

Millions of people across the UK rely on cash for essential purchases. Around 2.2 million, have said that they are almost entirely dependent on cash to live their lives.

Don’t trash cash

From those in rural areas to those on low incomes who use it to budget, from older people who’ve always used it to small business owners who need it for trade – we know that having free access to cash is still a necessity for over 25 million people across the country.

And we are concerned that over reliance on card-based and digital payments could mean everyone is left struggling to pay when these systems go down.

There have been a number of problems relating to the processing of payments in the past 12 months, including the outage of VISA payments last year and recent IT failures for RBS, Barclays, TSB, Halifax, Co-op and Cashplus.

Pay your way

We believe everyone should be able to pay for goods and services with whichever form of payment suits their needs – and cash should be protected for as long as we need it.

2018 Which? research shows that almost three quarters of adults in the UK say they use cash at least two or three times a week, including 60% of 18 to 24 year olds.

We’ve become concerned that without regulatory oversight to help manage the transition, the millions of people still reliant on cash risk being left behind.

That’s why today we launch our new campaign to ensure everyone continues to have access to cash and we are calling on the government to appoint a regulator that will help protect the UK’s cash infrastructure.

We’re calling for:

■ The government give a single regulator the statutory duty to protect your access to cash and to build a sustainable cash infrastructure for the UK.

■ The Payment Systems Regulator to immediately stop cash machines disappearing from communities that rely on them.

■ Banks to ensure customers are adequately supported as we move towards an increasingly digital society.

Cash is king

There are few topics that have attracted so much debate in our community as access to cash. And we’ve been listening.

Jen wrote last year:

We are in a village with no cash point and now no banks at our nearest town. If cashpoints are closed we will all struggle. Bus services to larger towns are also being reduced so it’s going to be really difficult for us to manage our finances.

And Andrea wrote:

It’s not just a question of obtaining cash. I have had the misfortune to have several attempts at fraud on my bank account this year. Now my local branch has closed (and the ATM removed, of course) if my account is frozen again I have to go with photographic ID to another branch.

The nearest is about 3 miles away, and there is a bus service and I do have a car, but it is still very inconvenient to have to drop everything and rush off to this branch.

Our regular community member Wavechange added:

There could be various serious consequences of removal of ATMs. People who had difficulty in accessing money could keep more cash at home, encouraging crime. Those who don’t understand computers/phones and security issues are more likely to be subject to fraud.

Removal of easy access to cash also pushes us towards a cash-free society, though the ban on card surcharges has temporarily delayed this with many small businesses reasonably refusing to take card payments for small transactions.

No one’s in any doubt that cash use is on the decline, but without a central body to protect those who still need to use cash, too many are at risk of being left behind.

That’s why we think paying for goods and services with cash should be an option available to everyone in the UK for as long as it remains necessary.

Do you still use cash on a regular basis in your day to day life or in your work or business? Has your access to cash, such as from cashpoints or banks, been reduced in recent years? We’d like to know your stories.

DerekP says:
18 April 2019

I see the cashpoint at my local Co-Op is now advertising the Which? “Freedom to Pay. Our Way.” petition.

Vickie says:
18 April 2019

Over time the cost of paying for goods and services using cashless methods will increase, especially if there is no alternative and your every transaction will be monitored by someone, somewhere.

DerekP says:
19 April 2019

Perhaps. But paying by cash doesn’t make one invisible to a shop’s in-store CCTV security cameras and automatic face recognition software is quite good these days…

Richard Duployen says:
19 April 2019

Yes. We need the liberty to choose a cash alternative.

However coins need to be removed: they cost too much to mint. It’s happened in other countries.

The last coin to be removed because of inflation was thirty-six years ago: the stupid new halfpenny.

DerekP says:
19 April 2019

I certainly no longer routinely carry coins – only notes instead.

Any coins I acquire are stashed in either the car or the kitchen, until they are needed, eg for car parking.

Our local car park had two payment machines – one took coins, both took cards. The fees have just gone up and the second machine no longer takes cash. So masses of people will be paying their 50p electronically.I wonder what charges the council incur for each of these payments? Is it better to pay part of the parking fee to some corporate card provider than too a council employee to collect the cash – they visit the car park regularly to issue PCNs.

What are the total costs payable on debit and credit card transactions? I’ve seen them as from 0.65%+2p to 3%+20p. Anyone know?

It’s quite complex, or so I’ve been told by a friend who runs a small business. Maybe large businesses manage to negotiate substantial discounts.

Our charity decided not to go for a SumUp card reader last year because of the charges (currently 1.69% of transactions) and the fact that most people round here are happy to donate by cash.

R.Owen says:
19 April 2019

I try to use cash as often as possible- notes and coins. If we use cards all the time, it gives the banks an excuse to get rid of cash machines. So if we want to be free to use cash, we must practise what we preach – use cash!

Richard says:
20 April 2019

In Germany cash is King. Did you know that an estimated 80% of transactions are in cash?

Why can’t we do the same?

Peter Hotham says:
20 April 2019

Making sure there is a legal right to own and to use Cash is an essential element of a property owning free society. If all money becomes digital only, any government can control and take posession of its citizens’ financial property, by means of negative interest rates on deposits or even outright confiscation. The former has I believe already been proposed by Mr Haldane of the Bank of England as a tactic of monetary policy.

R A Richmond says:
20 April 2019

The ‘Banks’ attitude reminds me of the campaign to have paperless toilets.

Heather Pooley says:
20 April 2019

Those on low incomes need to budget carefully. Putting cash into labelled envelopes is the easiest way to do this. Card use encourages unplanned and often un-affordable spending, and banks should NOT be encouraging this.

Margaret says:
22 April 2019

Cash is freedom. Online banklng invitation to hackers.

DerekP says:
22 April 2019

From what I’ve seen, hackers and scammers will take all forms of payment 😉

Cash is a way to avoid the relentless questioning and hectoring of an abusive partner, who scrutinises your bank statements and harnesses you for simple activities such as buying a coffee.

Gary Hill says:
22 April 2019

I pay for all small purchases with cash. Who wants to have several long statements to check with lots of small purchases. I do not trust banks to be accurate in what they do and have personal experience of them making errors or not doing what they have been asked to. I always get a receipt for card payments and this has saved me a lot of aggravation in the past when banks have denied that I have given them an instruction and attempted to charge wrong amounts or make charges due to not following my instructions.
Furthermore why should those without Smartphones or Internet access be punished.

Peter Williams says:
22 April 2019

Banks and Politicians have shown that they only care about themselves. If cash disappears we will be entirely at the (non existent) mercy of these people. Only someone who has forgotten the parliament scandal of 2009 and the financial crash of 2007-8 would be in favour of cash disappearing. If cash disappears, banks and the politicians can take everyone’s money.