With concern growing over ‘cash deserts’ across the UK—where bank closures have left local communities with little access to notes and coins—the Treasury has proposed a plan to enable people to withdraw cash in local shops.
Calling on the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority to take charge of securing the future of cash, the Treasury has launched a call for evidence, to last six weeks, that will invite opinions on how best to secure options for withdrawing and depositing money. It suggests that purchase-free cashback in shops of all sizes could play a key role in this.
We want to harness the same creative thinking that has driven innovation in digital payments to maintain the UK’s cash system and make sure people can easily access cash in their local area.
An estimated eight million people in the UK rely on notes and coins, for reasons including not having a bank account, and simply not being comfortable with digital payments, and in 2019, cashback was the second most used method of withdrawing cash in the UK (behind ATMs). Eight trials of ways to make cash more accessible are already under way across Britain, with shops in remote communities trying a purchase-free cashback plan. Retailers will be remunerated for this service by the payment services company PayPoint.
Natalie Ceeney—leader of the Access to Cash Review that highlighted the eight million Brits at risk from cashless policies—has welcomed the step, urging rapid action on an issue that has only become more pressing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This [Treasury consultation] is increasingly urgent. Last year we warned the UK was sleepwalking into a cashless society. COVID-19 has placed even greater strains on the whole system.