Cash is resilient, and while many will cry that its demise is coming along any day now, others will brush away the panic by remembering that reports of the death of cash are greatly exaggerated.
Even with ATM closures, cashless busses and a government's failed attempt to 'pinch the penny', cash continues to hold a firm role within the UK's payments landscape. Did you know that over a third of all transactions across the UK take place with cash?
It comes down to choice. Without the choice to use or not use cash, over 66 million Brits can consider themselves being pushed off a great cashless height, but a word of caution, as of yet, there are no safety measures set up for the nation's recovery. Cash, with its easy, breezy, privacy protecting glory, is uncontestedly a safer payment option, without it, there's danger ahead.
'It’s no longer good enough to see cash as just a commercial issue. It needs to be treated as a core part of the UK’s infrastructure.'
We make five recommendations which will keep cash viable for the foreseeable future, as well as eventually including everyone in a society where digital payments dominate. These recommendations work together, because cash is a system, and needs to be treated as such.
- Guarantee consumer access to cash – ensuring that consumers can get cash wherever they live or work.
- Take steps to keep cash accepted, whether by a local coffee shop or a large utility provider.
- Call for radical change to the wholesale cash infrastructure [to] keep cash sustainable for longer.
- Government, regulators and the industry to make digital inclusion in payments a priority.
- A clear government policy on cash, supported by a joined-up regulatory approach which treats cash as a system.
“The simple truth is that leaving the future of cash to be determined by market forces will not work...It is now for policymakers to pick up the mantle and bring about the changes required to secure long-term access to cash for those that need it.
Remote areas are the hardest hit by cashless oversights and should be protected against ATM removals and businesses with cashless policies. Therefore, the paper calls on the banks, the treasury and regulators to protect the use of and access to cash for the sake of the 8 million people (17% of the UK's adult population) who would struggle to get by without it.
Cash is a social equaliser, and this paper calls for regulations to defend the social good before it's too late. The final Access to Cash Review 2019 was published on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019. It is an independent report commissioned by LINK, the UK's leading ATM network.
- 97% carry cash on them
- 85% keep cash in the home
- 16.5% keep more than £100 in their home
- Average cash people carry on them – £41
- Average cash people have at home – £84
'...Our research shows that if we fail to plan and prepare for it properly, a cashless society would do significant harm to the millions of people who would be left behind.'
Meanwhile, Which?, the UK's largest consumerist body, launched a petition-backed campaign, calling on British consumers to stand up for their choice to use cash, after revealing LINK's controversial move of slashing ATM numbers across the country over the past few years. According to the Access to Cash review,
While their attitudes on what is causing the decline in cash may differ, both groups argue that the use and access to cash should be protected now and in future. In defence of the vulnerable but also of the state's number one contingency payment plan, this report offers five important recommendations, which would see essential services accepting cash payments as a requirement.
'We all need a good choice of how to pay for the things we want and use every day. Today’s report highlights the importance of the availability of ATMs, alongside other ways to access cash. But we know the way people want to pay for things and the role of cash will both continue to evolve.'
In response to the the paper from the UK's Payment Regulating System, Head of Policy, Chris Hemsley, says they welcome the report, finding 'useful information' but 'will continue [their] focus within the current regulatory framework'.
Will UK banks and regulators wake up from their cashless slumber? The term sleepwalking is often used to describe the UK's attitude to signs that they are loosing the option to pay with cash. Papers like these hope to inspire influential bodies to act. But perhaps it is people power that will do the trick. Consumers can act now by signing the Which? petition.