Britain’s Cash Revolution

calendar iconJun 3, 2021


A payment revolution is coming to Britain’s streets, with establishments from corner shops to cafés and pubs able to offer cashback without a purchase under a new law improving access to cash.

The Government has backed an amendment to its Financial Services Bill that will enable people to withdraw cash from their accounts at participating retailers without needing to buy something. It is the first concrete step towards providing the support of cash and access to it promised in the 2020 Budget.

The move has been welcomed by the banking and finance industry—represented by UK Finance—and consumer advocacy organisation Which?, a fierce supporter of retaining cash as a payment option, and ensuring everyone has good access to it.

Cashback without purchase will allow retailers to enable consumers to access cash at a time and place that is convenient for them… This will complement the industry’s existing work to maintain access to cash, including the recently-launched community access to cash pilots.
"David Postings, Chief Executive, UK Finance

Many MPs are also supportive of further legislation to support cash access, noting that while cashless payments have become more popular, physical money is far from obsolete.

Many millions of people continue to feel most comfortable making physical payments, and whilst small businesses have access to low-cost options for taking card payments, many will still prefer to deal with cash.
"Labour Frontbencher Lord Tunnicliffe

A trial of purchase-free cashback that launched in October 2020—operating in rural communities where access to cash was previously poor—has proved popular. Within the first six months, more than 12,000 withdrawals were made from the 12 participating shops, with an average amount of £29 ($40/€33). The new legislation paves the way for the service to be rolled out across thousands more locations.

Recognising this progress, Which? nonetheless continues to push for stronger action, noting that cashback is just one solution to the problem of ensuring good access to cash across the nation. It highlights the fact that businesses are invited to offer the service at their discretion, with no legal requirement to do so. This may mean some communities are still left without cash access, depending on the choices of local business owners.

For more information on the ongoing Which? Freedom to Pay campaign—and to sign their related petition—click here.

Last Updated: Jun 3, 2021