/ 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.

Comments
Member

As situations evolve – local shops disappearing as supermarkets emerged, bus services diminishing as we took to private cars – we participate and help drive these changes and need to adapt. The same with the availability of the means to obtain cash. Bank branches have reduced in number as we’ve chosen online options, ATMs have closed because, as commercial devices, there was insufficient usage to sustain them all.

We need a constructive approach, not simply complaining about the loss and only proposing regulators to stop a natural process. Forcing commercial business to retain unprofitable operations implies subsidy, for which we will all pay. Perhaps that is what we are prepared to accept?

LINK have been somewhat successful in addressing the problem by taking action on protected ATMs. From their latest report just 26 qualifying ATMs are closed but areunder investigation to try to restore them; LINK are offering enhanced premium payments to some of these and are looking to try to appoint LINK members to operate the remainder. https://www.link.co.uk/media/1424/atm-footprint-report.pdf

Banks have entered into an agreement with 11500 post offices to provide banking facilities. Including fee cash withdrawals, for the majority of those with bank accounts.

We will not turn the clock back and need to think of imaginative solutions. Previous Convos have commented on this but this Convo seems to have paid no heed.

We talk of protecting existing ATMs (that do not have another within 1km). But a great many people, particularly rural, will never have lived so close to any ATM, let alone a bank or post office. We should, perhaps, be thinking of them, many of whom may be elderly and less mobile than when they settled there. Yet they may be within reach of a cash business – maybe a pub, farm shop, local outlet, restaurant……. We could provide incentives for those to dispense cash. Maybe for a payment similar to the LINK arrangement.

Perhaps Which? could look at alternatives as a part of its campaign and offer a more constructive way forward?

Member

Hi Malcolm,

I helped sourcing some of the case studies for this campaign, so thought I could shed some light on your 'needing a constructive approach' point. The campaign does recognise the move away from cash towards card and digital payments. It's more about making sure everyone is helped to do this – and cash is available as a backup during the transition. One of our campaign demands is: 'Banks to ensure customers are adequately supported as we move towards an increasingly digital society.'

Oscar

Member

@oscarwebb, Thanks Oscar. By “constructive approach” I was more concerned that we should explore new ways of providing cash, and hopefully reach more people than is currently the case. An opportunity perhaps.

This headline in today’s Which? News seems, unless I totally misunderstand the situation, to be very misleading:
Thousands of cash machines vanish: ‘I could lose my independence’

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/02/thousands-of-cash-machines-disappear-from-uk-streets-over-2018/ – Which?
Around 3,000 cash machines have vanished from UK streets in the last six months of 2018, fuelling concerns that cash is under threat – with one award-winning disability blogger warning she relies on cash for her independence.

Gem Turner, 25, shared how she needs cash on a day-to-day basis as she backed Which?’s call for the UK government to protect access to cash across the country.

Which? explains why ATMs are disappearing and how the regulator could take action……

From the LINK figures, as I read them, very few “protected” ATMs – those not close to another – have closed permanently and any residual ones in doubt are being investigated by LINK to hopefully bring them back into operation. The vast majority of closures seem to be where other ATMs are nearby, or there is a nearby free source of cash. Unless I am wrong in this interpretation I think Which? should be clear about closures that really have an impact, not those that duplicate an existing facility.

There are also other potential sources of cash that I think are worth exploring that could benefit a lot more people than.

Member

Hey Malcolm,

While protecting cash machines in communities that rely on them is a priority of the campaign, we’re also aware people are accessing cash in other ways. Our case studies highlight different types of cash provision, other than cash points. If you take a look at the case study from Joe on our campaigns page, you’ll see he runs the Post Office in his village, which provides all the cash as the cashpoint closed a few years ago. I’ve copied it here:

‘I run the Hook Norton Village Shop, which incorporates a Post Office. We’re the only place to draw cash in the village. I’d say about 40% of purchases are made with cash, so it’s still very important. We have people who will come in and draw out large sums once a week and use it to budget: the elderly generation and and those on a lower income. What they’ve got in their pocket is what they’ve got to spend. There are some small local businesses round here that do only deal in cash: like the chip van that comes round, and some of our suppliers only take cash. And we pay some of our staff in cash. Cash is also important for us to have at hand in case the internet goes down.’

We also spoke to Stella, whose village similarly relies on the Post Office for cash (the cashmachine also having closed):

‘Our village used to have an ATM but now all we have is a Post Office. But it’s only open for 4 hours a day on weekdays. So those who can’t travel have a hard time accessing cash. I help a neighbour out across the road with shopping who is disabled and she pays me back in cash. You can’t pay a neighbour with a card when they’ve done your shopping for you. The Post Office is in the local library, which is run by volunteers. It’s the last lifeline for access to cash in our village. There are a lot of retired and disabled people in my village who would find it really difficult if that shut down.’

So in answer to your other point, we have spoken to people who live in communities with no easy access to cash from cashpoints.

Oscar

Member

I have no quarrel with your case studies, Oscar.

What new initiatives are Which? proposing should be investigated to give better access to cash, including to those who have never been close to a bank, ATM or PO?

Have you any comment on the News headline and text?

Today’s Which? press release repeats the information which seems misleading:

“New figures obtained by Which? show cashpoints disappeared at a rate of 488 per month between June 2018 and December 2018 with over 250 free-to-use machines also closing monthly – due to changes in the way the UK’s cash machine network is funded.” Most of these are probably duplicate machines in well-served areas.

“Meanwhile, over the course of the year, 102 so-called “protected” machines closed in more remote areas which receive boosted subsidies aimed at keeping them open.“. as I understand the latest LINK report 116 “protected” ATMs have closed, of which 90 have a local alternative free source of cash, or were in premises not available to the public, or were subject to security problems. That leaves 26 of which some are being offered enhanced premiums to keep them open, and others where LINK are seeking members to operate them.

Quite separate from the ATM situation in principle it seems to me that Which? are withholding crucial information that would allow us to properly assess and debate the situation. This is not an isolated instance of Which? trying to lead an argument with partial information. I wish it would not. But, if I have totally misunderstood I’d be happy to withdraw my remarks. 🙂

Member

Hi again,

From our press release: we are calling on the government to urgently appoint a regulator to protect access to cash by intervening to maintain the health of UK’s bank branch and ATM networks. Which? believes that only a government appointed regulator can ensure that ATM funding is planned and managed with consumer interest as a priority.

On the news story, ‘Thousands of cash machines vanish: ‘I could lose my independence”, the headline is accurate: thousands of cash machines are closing/have closed and this has reduced many peoples’ independence.

Member

Oscar – I support the need for a government-appointed regulator. More action is also needed to stop banks exploiting many customers with punitive overdraft charges.

Jenni’s introduction has a link to the new campaign but I don’t understand how over 100,000 people have already supported it. It would be interesting to know how this was achieved.

Member

Hi Wavechange,

This campaign is an evolution of Save Our Cashpoints – the asks of that campaign are included in this new one. As Jenni said, after listening to our community, we broadened the Cashpoints campaign to more widely reflect the role cash plays for consumers in the UK, while maintaining the original demands. So, the petition signatures from the Cashpoints campaign have been brought over to Freedom to Pay.

Oscar

Member

Thanks for the explanation, Oscar. That means I have signed it twice. 🙂

Member

Oscar, thousands of “protected” ATMs – i.e. the only ones in a locality – have not closed, have they? Well, not according to the LINK report.

Member

Hi Malcolm, Josh Robbins has responded to this below.

Member

I do use cash, more so since surcharges on cards were banned. Since then, signs have appeared in small shops and some pubs saying ‘cash only’ or that there is a minimum of £10 for card payments.

The banks and larger retailers are doing their best to push us towards a cashless society. The nearest large B&Q no longer accepts cash payment at any of its self-service tills, although the same machines have accepted cash in the past. I am not stuck in the past and was an early adopter of debit and credit cards, including contactless cards. I believe that the banks should have invited us to ask for contactless cards rather than just issuing them by default.

Back in the 1970s when ATMs first appeared, it was necessary to visit a branch of your own bank. It soon became possible to withdraw cash from ATMs operated by other banks, coordinated by Link. It remains one of the best examples of how businesses can cooperate for the benefit of customers and for many living out of cities and towns this convenient service has been withdrawn, often as a result of closure of bank branches and failure to maintain an ATM on the site or nearby.

A major reason for introducing ATMs was to avoid the need for the time taken for manual withdrawal of cash from banks. I well remember waiting in queues to withdraw cash when I was a student. I don’t think it is sensible to go back to queueing at a Post Office counter, wasting our time and staff time, when a better alternative would be to have an ATM outside the Post Office, or inside if this is not practical.

I want to live in a society where provision of important services is coordinated and not just left to the companies involved to provide services where it is most profitable. The banks need to be able to make a profit but that does not imply that operation of every ATM or local bus service must make a profit.

Member

The towns and cities seem to have adequate provision of ATMs; it seems that the number in clusters, or close together, are being pruned because of reduced demand. I am concerned that single ATMs where another is not close should be protected, and that seems to be LINK’s policy and it seems to be working reasonably well so far. But, as I said above, many people have never been close to a bank or ATM and I’d like to see proposals as to how they can be helped with access to cash. We have an opportunity to improve matters, not just to keep the status quo.

Member

Although I can see plenty of opportunity for removing some of the ATMs in city centres, being dependent on a single machine in other areas can cause problems if it fails or simply runs out of cash. I presume that this is why supermarkets often have two or three machines outside. Over the recent Christmas holidays I stayed in a small town and the one ATM developed a fault and would not dispense cash at a time when there were no bus services for two days.

Expecting the citizens of this country to accept declining standards reminds me of Orwell’s 1984.

Member

Change, not decline, I’d suggest, and we are all party to such change by the way our habits alter. We need to find sensible alternatives.

It may be we could see more ATMs in unprofitable areas if they were not free, but charge a fee per withdrawal to the customer. I’d suggest “vulnerable” and “needy” users could be issued with a fee-free card to use.

Member

I have offered what I consider sensible suggestions including enabling self-service checkouts into mini cash dispensers. Having studied their use in supermarkets I have seen that many users feed them with bank notes. Having ATMs at Post Offices may well be practical.

With many pay to use cash dispensers charging nearly £2 per transaction, there is the risk of profiteering.

Member

One might split this into two. The need for cash and the supply of this. Previous conversations have shown that cash is essential for some transactions -clubs, charities, market stalls, family gifts, local taxi without card access. It is also useful for small purchases like ice cream in the cinema and bus fares. Tap cards are not universally accepted, rely on a bank account and internet access, can be used fraudulently and don’t provide instant confirmation of what has been paid in the same way as cash does…tap and go. With cash it is useful to know what has been spent as the wallet empties and needs refilling, the tap card sanitises this somewhat.
For me, supply is not a problem. I seldom need more than the fifty pounds provided by the supermarket check out. The ATM outside can supply more if necessary as can the post office. In rural areas, and where there is a need to travel for these facilities, and where this is difficult for some of the population, ATMs or equivalent should be available as a social service. Of course, if they are not, it probably means that there is also no means of spending cash anyway. If ATMs prove to be too expensive to run, then alternatives must be in place and that could mean local traders, mobile deliveries and even the post van being involved via the mobile telephone network. Each community council should have an obligation to consider this problem and provide a suitable local solution. That would have a better chance of success than blaming the banks and expecting them to respond. Banks are not good at responding!

Member

I strongly support your suggestion that there should be an obligation to assess the need for ATMs as a social service, Vynor.

Member

And if they assessed as a social service should the state – or local authority – pay for them?

Member

Here is a recent article that might be of interest: https://www.cashpaymentnews.com/issues/october-2018/

Member

That article confirms the low closure rate of “protected” ATMs but omits to detail their status. Some were not available to the public, some had security issues, others had a free cash service nearby, and others were being investigated by LINK to either reinstate them or find new owners. All this is given in the more recent (Feb 11) LINK report – . https://www.link.co.uk/media/1424/atm-footprint-report.pdf

Member

ATMs are not the only source of money. Wherever it is collected and used it is available to be distributed. It needs a creative mindset to extrapolate that into an alternative to the traditional hole in the wall. In rural communities, it is the community that could do this for its cash users. There may be some costs but these would not be substantial and could be shared if the community accepted that this was part of the cost of living in that society. In urban areas, the traders would have to have some incentive to provide cash, and, of course some card facility to do so. It would only need a few shops in each district to do this when a supermarket was a distance from the housing and away from a bus route. This might be an over simplistic model from a bystander, and, maybe, since the banks have been responsible for so much social misery, they should be held accountable and required to see that adequate cash provision is available where it is needed. Just because they wish to automate and digitise everything, this doesn’t necessarily represent progress as we have seen from the vulnerabilities within the internet recently.

Member

Thinking about social misery, I wonder when the convenience of contactless card will be recognised as a contributor to driving people into debt. These cards might be best left at home if you are prone to overdoing it in pubs. The link I gave above mentions that MasterCard and Visa are not too keen on people using cash.

Member
DerekP says:
12 February 2019

Even before the advent of such cards, I think folk were managing to get into debt. So I’m not sure that contactless cards are much of a game changer here.

Folklore has it that, in olden olden days, the slate behind the counter did the job of easily facilitating debts.

Member

Of course there were, but these cards do make it very easy to make many small purchases. Not everyone takes or is even offered a receipt to keep a check on spending. When I got my first contactless card I was told that I would be asked periodically to provide the PIN, but after the first use I have never been asked, even when I have made multiple transactions in a day.

Member
Danny Numnum says:
12 February 2019

they are easy for con men to steal details

Member
DerekP says:
12 February 2019

I think here these cards are just tools. What really matters is the skills of their users.

Member

On line gambling and High Street betting shops also play their part in making debt easy. It is the users who go down this route as Derek says. Should we protect people from themselves?

Member

I don’t know but Citizens Advice does get involved with people with debt problems, irrespective of cause.

Member

malcolm r said 12 February 2019
It is the users who go down this route as Derek says. Should we protect people from themselves?

As that principle appears to underpin a vast amount of UK legislation, I suspect it’s a subject for an entire topic.

Member

Hi Malcolm,

Thanks for your comments. I know we've discussed this before, but it's a very interesting debate and I'm happy to address some of your concerns.

Every number that we've used both here and in the news story is true and, fundamentally, the most important aspect of the situation is the thousands of ATM closures, in my opinion.

While I can see why you feel more merit should be given to Link’s protected ATM scheme, I still regard it as a secondary issue to the rapid rate of cashpoint closures up and down the country.

The finer points of the protected ATM scheme beg a lot of questions. To name a few: Is a 1km walk to and from a machine reasonable for a disabled or very elderly person? Is “as the crow flies” a suitable way to measure this kilometer? Does a Post Office branch, which is not open at weekends or evenings, really provide an adequate substitute for an ATM?

But, as I say, I don’t think how one answers these questions is essential to the way we cover the issue.

The ATM network is shrinking at an unprecedented rate, and this is a real cause for concern for people like Gem Turner, who features in the story. No one knows where this will end, which is why we’re calling on the government to appoint a regulator to oversee cash access in the UK.

Thanks as always for your input though, and for engaging so thoroughly with the issue. I'll be doing my best to respond to any additional queries here.

Thanks,
Josh

P.S.We have acknowledged Link’s premiums on protected machines, and given our opinion on how effective these might be, in several other releases.

Member

Hi Josh – Having to queue at a Post Office counter (when it is open) and have someone dispense cash does not make much sense to me in 2019, when I’ve been using ATMs for over 40 years. Another problem is that if an ATM is closed on the basis that there is a Post Office nearby, what happens if the Post Office closes?

Do you know how Link calculates the distance of homes to the nearest ATM? In my case it is more than four times the distance shown on their website because there is no access as the crow flies.

Member

I feel that Which? is deliberately ignoring the points Malcolm has consistently made about (a) the millions of people who have never lived within walking distance of a cash outlet, and (b) the gross over-provision of ATM’s in most large towns and cities where even many of the larger shops have a machine inside them. Just looking at the overall numbers is not the most responsible way of making a case.

Given that the supply of ATM’s virtually exploded some years ago because the demand for cash [in the absence of cashless payment facilities] rose exponentially, it is not surprising that there is now a mass retreat – on commercial grounds – from such excessive and uneconomical provision. It is, indeed, remarkable that it didn’t happen sooner.

Interestingly, it’s not where I live that I need cash but where I am likely to spend it, which is mainly in a town, although I accept that many people have to pay the window cleaner and the milkman at their home. Most households have to do a weekly shop at a supermarket where cash-back at the till and an ATM are usually available. Most people with cars have to fill their tank from time to time and most filling stations have, or are near to, an ATM.

There will be many people who fall down the gaps in this scenario and I agree that provision does need to be made for them – and that is where we need some innovative ideas [some of which have been contributed in previous Conversations]. I cannot understand why Which? chooses to ignore those suggestions and not explore them with the banking industry. I am sceptical about the value of setting up yet another regulator.

We are all paying for the super-abundance of ATM’s in towns and cities, and exaggerating the notional inconvenience of losing some distracts us from the real hardship cases that deserve to be tackled in a thorough and supportive way for the people affected.

Member

I agree. I don’t think a Post Office completely does the job of an ATM.

I believe they tend to use as the crow flies, which is problematic.

Member

I don’t see that Post Offices and cashback are viable alternatives to ATMs unless their future can be guaranteed. As some know only too well, Post Offices can close. Our village shop had a good Post Office, often with two staff. That was closed and turned into a delicatessen counter. One of the checkout positions continued to offer some Post Office services, but only when a certain member of staff is available. Sainsbury has recently been considering withdrawal of cash back facilities: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2018/11/some-sainsburys-stores-no-longer-offering-debit-card-cashback/

Some of us were strongly opposed to plans to phase out cheques a few years ago. I rarely use them but our small charity still receives cheques. I’m game for a fight to preserve our ATMs.

Member

“What can you do at the post office?
If you can get to a post office, you can just pop in and:
Withdraw cash from your usual bank account using your card
Pay cash into your usual bank account using a card or paying-in slip
Check your bank balance using your card
Deposit a cheque using a paying-in slip (though Nationwide customers can’t do this)
These banking services are available for free to customers of 28 banks, including all the high street big names such as HSBC, Barclays and NatWest. The Post Office says it’s able to serve 99% of UK banking customers.
….
The Post Office also offers business banking services, including withdrawals, deposits and change-giving services. Note that business banking services will incur a charge, which is set by the individual banks – check your bank’s website for full details.

Member

That’s little help to those who have lost their local Post Office. Here is a link to a recent post in another Convo: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/bank-of-england-future-money/#comment-1558655 There are plenty of similar posts in various Convos.

Where I used to live the Post Office closed about ten years ago.

Member

I believe they tend to use as the crow flies, which is problematic.“. I cannot see how else you can sensibly denote distance from a point for everyone in the area.

80% of ATMs are within 300m of another one. Presumably Which? have the information on the numbers of all closures that are not close to another ATM? That is how inconvenience would be measured, in my view. Being within 1km of another ATM is the measure used by LINK to protect existing points. Yet many people have never been that close to an ATM or bank.

I am simply looking for proper information on where ATMs are closing that leave real inconvenience; Which? seem reluctant to give this information. I also hope for imaginative solutions on whether we can make provision of cash to a much larger audience than has had it in the past, without the expense of ATMs.

LINK protects ATMs where they are not close to another and, as John says above, people can generally organise their cash withdrawals from ATMs. post offices, supermarket cashbacks….

Member

This was in response to Josh who queried the services post offices offer. 11500 of them.

Member

“I don’t see that Post Offices and cashback are viable alternatives to ATMs“. They were not given as an alternative, but they are additional facilities that allow cash to be withdrawn.

We need a “how can we” approach to improving the situation of cash availabilty, including for those who have never been close to a facility.

Member

The route planners provided by motoring organisations manage to calculate distances based on travel by road and at least in urban areas a postcode often represents a single street.

Member

Route planners are from one specific point to another. Here we are dealing with an area, not a point. They can be different, depending upon the road layout from individual houses. I expect the 1km criterion works sensibly in practice as a means of categorising ATMs that need “protection”.

Member

A quick Google search will show the distance by road from my house number and street to another address.

Many have lost access to ATMs as a result of closure of bank branches and failure to provide an ATM nearby. Had ATM protection been introduced years ago we might not be having this discussion.

Member

In 1998 there were 24,600 ATMs, in 2017 there were 69,600 .”
ATMs are commercial devices that essentially need to pay there way, just as village shops do – and we’ve lost many of those through “progress”; should we have a campaign to reinstate them? Bus services have been curtailed as fewer people used them.

When a service becomes unprofitable we have to think about who should fund it if it is regarded as “essential”. But, if you do go down that road, you will open the question of all those many existing people who never have had bank or ATM access near their doorstep; they will then maybe consider they have a right to join in the service, and that would be wholly impractical. Hence why I suggest that we consider all consumers in this discussion, not just those already served, and think of ways we could extend a cash service to the vast majority.

Member

As I have said many times, it is essential that the provision of ATMs needs to be profitable overall, but absolutely no need for every ATM to be profitable. The statistics are not helpful because so much has changed in the intervening 19 years including closure of many bank branches.

When choosing where to live most people will look at the availability of local services. I considered moving to a small village that I visit weekly in the better weather but decided not to because there was no mains gas. My family moved to the highlands of Scotland where there few local services, no mains gas and deliveries are often surcharged. They new the advantages and disadvantages very well and are happy with their decision, but may move to an area with better services when they retire.

The problem is when you have essential services and they are withdrawn. ATMs today but if companies decided that it was unprofitable to maintain phone or broadband services then it might become obvious that consumers and their representatives need to take action. That’s why I support the current action by Which?

Member

Hi Malcolm. The point I was making was in relation to opening hours.

Member

That is simply about organising your visit, surely. POs generally have longer opening hours than bank branches ever had.

Member
A Day says:
12 February 2019

Prior to the 2012 Olympics, I did some work with the RNIB and many visually impaired people were quite upset about the Olympic Committee’s decision to go cashless. At that time, many visually impaired people preferred cash because they could “feel” how much money they were paying and how much change they were getting back. They were concerned about being overcharged on credit cards and not realising it until they received their credit card bills, or not realising it at all. I suppose that with Apply Pay and similar apps, screen readers can announce how much they have been billed, but I would imagine that they would also want to have that information at the point of service, not after they’ve paid. Also, the banks have issued all those beautiful, new £5 and £10 notes. It’s so much more satisfying to use those notes than it is to wave a credit card over a reader!

Member

This is a really important aspect to cash! We’re really interested if anyone who is visually impaired has any similar stories to share on this.

Member

Hi all. Further to the campaign launch and comments here, I'm pleased to see Nicky Morgan adding support. Here's the full press release and comment:

Earlier today, the Treasury Committee held an evidence session with the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), in which Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Committee, asked about the future of the UK’s ATM network.

During the session, Charles Randell, Chair of the PSR, said that the whole system of access to cash needs to be looked at afresh, and that the PSR board will indeed look at the entire infrastructure of cash provision.

Mr Randell said that there is a need to guarantee access to free-to-use ATMs, but with changes to the way people are using cash and contactless payments affecting the economics of the cash distribution industry, we need to have a debate this year about whether access to cash should be a universal service, rather than a commercial one.

Commenting on the evidence session, Mrs Morgan said:

“Whilst cash may no longer be king, it continues to play an important role in the lives of millions. So what we’ve heard today from the PSR should set alarm bells ringing.

“It’s clear that the whole way that people access their cash via ATMs is starting to fail.

“Mr Randell suggested that there is a serious discussion to be had this year about whether access to such a basic financial service should be universal, or commercially driven.

“With the way that people access their cash seemingly on the precipice of collapsing, the Government can’t just bury its head in the sand. This mustn’t fall through the gaps of responsibility – the Government and regulators should get a grip of this problem before the whole arrangement collapses.”

Member

I haven’t paid with GBP cash for over 4 years. I use cash only in other countries that are less of a cashless society than the UK. Even in Brazil, where I have just spent three weeks, I didn’t use cash once.

In the UK, everyone accepts cards. As for payment systems going down, American Express has never gone down in my experience, and on the rare occasion that a merchant doesn’t accept Amex, I can use a Visa or MasterCard credit card instead.

Member

That’s what this Convo is about – freedom of choice.

If you head up north you might find that you need to use a card to withdraw cash because some places won’t take cash.

Member

I had an interesting experience lately. My local shop has stopped accepting cash at the self serve check out but there was no sign to say so. There was a long queue for the one cashier and the person next to me had scanned everything through before she realised. She was panicking because she had been running late as it was.

I took her cash and paid with my card. And this is the only reason I had a £1 coin to pay the tooth fairy when my son lost his first tooth.

The whole thing really made me think about cash and how something that started as convenience has made things harder for other people.

Member

Your kind action will be remembered. I’m sure that tooth fairies will accept a bank transfer these days.

Member

I am always happy to use my card for someone else’s purchase. Getting airmiles for someone else’s expenditure is fantastic.

Member

I might have been able to fly to the end of the street with those airmiles! 😀

Member

I see no reason why there should not be a reasonable charge for withdrawal of cash at a remote ATM. Perhaps £1 per transaction would be appropriate with a £100 limit. If the ATM were not there people would either experience inconvenience or have to travel some distance in their own time and at their own expense. There will be a tipping point between the willingness to pay the charge for convenience and people reorganising their movements to incorporate cash collection within their other activities, so it is not a guaranteed lifeline for an under-used ATM.

Given that it is possible to order foreign currency on-line for home delivery I think there is an opportunity to provide UK banknotes in the same way but I have not seen such a service [possibly because I have not looked for one].

Member

Charging is likely to decrease use and make the ATM less profitable. There is evidence that pay to use ATMs are used less than free ones.

Member

Pay to use ATMs will be profitable otherwise they would be removed. I would have thought, as John infers, that to preserve a little used ATM by making a small charge per withdrawal is better than the inconvenience of making a journey – although that may be to the shops where there is an ATM.

LINK are providing a subsidy of up to £2.30 per transaction to preserve some ATMs. We are all paying for that of course.

Member

While there is no doubt that the number of ATM’s is contracting there have been very few – if any – reports here of actual hardship.

The days when there were queues at the cash machines on a Friday and Saturday night seem to have gone since people now pay for their refreshments with cards, increasingly by making contactless payments for rounds of drinks. The price of meals and drinks now makes carrying wads of notes around a nuisance.

Faced with this situation the banks are probably responding in the only way open to them. The banks and traders have facilitated this transition but it has probably reduced crime as well [or relocated it].

Member

Responding to parliamentary questions last November LINK said:
“2. How many ATMs do you project will close as a result of the proposals?
As noted above, we expect the immediate number of closures to be negligible. In the long run, we do expect ATM numbers to decline, should consumers choose to move from away cash to alternative payment options. Our proposals will ensure that this is achieved by closing machines close to each other rather than closing more remote ATMs or seeing them able to turn to a charging model. We aim to avoid the clustering of free high use machines in busy locations and a network of charging machines in more remote locations..

It is the success, or otherwise, of this policy that should be monitored. Simply quoting the loss of ATMs seems irrelevant unless we know where they have gone from, and whether they were either part of a cluster or relatively close to others. Perhaps Which? could give us this information.

Member
Chris says:
18 February 2019

I’ll only support this campaign if ALL UK banknotes are made vegan-friendly. The polymer banknotes contain tallow – a product obtained from dead cows. Until an alternative product is used, I’m boycotting cash and making all payments by card.

Member

This could be yet another nail in the coffin of ATM’s and cash generally.

Member

But as an argument you can’t hold a candle to it.

Member
R Wood says:
19 February 2019

The UK is moving cashless so get on board. In your example of Gem, how many times is she visiting an ATM to get cash to get a cab. Cash isnt the solution, getting card machines in cabs is. That way people dont need to go to an ATM, they dont need to worry about how much cash they have on them, peoples earnings are digitally tracked – cracking down on income tax. Once card machines are everywhere then cash is pointless.

Member

The title of this Conversation is: “We want the freedom to pay. Our way.”

I would like to be able to make online payments without the risk that a small mistake in the account number or sort code could result in my money going astray without the hassle of making a test payment – something I have had to do all the time I have been using online banking.

After years of failure of the banks to address this problem we were informed that the banks would be introducing ‘confirmation of payee’, which would hopefully put an end to people losing money and not being able to recover it. According to a recent Which? press release the introduction of this protection has been delayed: https://press.which.co.uk/whichstatements/which-statement-on-delays-to-the-implementation-of-confirmation-of-payee/

Member

Which? could ask the Payment Systems Regulator and UK Finance to explain if there is a delay, why? Then publish the response. The system does need to be industry-wide and work properly from day 1.

I worry when Which? seems to work like a newspaper, reporting on matters like this but not investigating them a little first and finding out the background, good or bad. A Consumers’ Association should surely do more?

Member
Peter Wharton says:
19 February 2019

I would be interested in seeing an analysis of those occasions when cash is essential. I have just returned from Singapore, New Zealand and Australia and in all those places I could use credit cards for every thing I wanted, this included all taxis and even the smallest food stall in Chinatown. My impression is they are ahead of the UK (certainly NZ has been using swipe payments for years) and show where we may be heading. Knowing where cash is needed to day one could then see what digital solutions might replace it and the impact this would have. The interesting challenge is the back up system, is cash essential for this? Might prepaid cash cards (or smartphone equivalents) be (part of) the answer?

Member

Thanks for the information about what happens in other countries.

Many small charities are dependent on cash and cheques donations. Cash is also very handy for small transactions between individuals. For example, elderly people are often dependent on others to pick up items from shops and will want to pay whoever has helped them. Children need to learn how to manage their pocket money and in the UK you have to be 11 to have a current account and older to have a card.

Cash cards could be useful but how could they allow payment of odd sums such as the £4.73 that I might pay a friend who has done some shopping for me and deserves to be reimbursed.

I’d be grateful if your experience could help us, Peter.

Member

Peter, is the Chinatown you refer to the hawker centres in Singapore? If so, they are government owned and were set up to control unlicensed and unhygienic street hawkers. Everything in Singapore is tightly controlled by government so the use of credit cards to pay might not be representative of many small street eateries.

Wavechange makes a good point. Children need to learn how to manage their finances, and if it is always available on plastic (whether funds permit or not), it will be little wonder they think it grows on magic money trees so get themselves into debt.

Member

I made a number of small purchases yesterday and as each one was under £10 I used notes and received change – an unusual experience these days. I had not realised we still had bronze coins in circulation! I must get out more.

I think this Conversation is just flying a kite and there is no serious intention to do away with cash in the foreseeable future for all the reasons that have been given.

Member

I think you must have met my son! In fairness he is only 6 but explaining to him how money works has been interesting to say the least!

Member

I went to Oslo in October and we didn’t use cash at all the whole time we were there but in the south of France in the summer we definitely needed cash for things like ice cream on the beach.