Digital payments don’t yet work for everyone and around eight million adults (17% of the population) would struggle to cope in a cashless society.
The Access to Cash Review has today published its final recommendations calling on the Government, regulators and banks to act now or risk leaving millions behind.
Cash is only used for three in every ten transactions, down from six in ten a decade ago and is forecast a fall to as low as one in ten transactions within the next 15 years. This shift away from cash towards digital payments is placing significant strain on the UK’s cash infrastructure which currently costs around £5 billion a year to run.
As bank branches and ATMs continue to close, the economics of handling and accepting cash will lead to an increasing number of retailers to go cashless. Given these pressures, the review warns against leaving access to cash to market forces, and urges the government and financial services regulators to take action to ensure cash remains viable for as long as people need it.
Natalie Ceeney, Independent Chair of the Access to Cash Review: “There are worrying signs that our cash system is falling apart. ATM and bank branch closures are just the tip of the iceberg, underneath there is a huge infrastructure which is becoming increasingly unviable as cash use declines. In Sweden, we were repeatedly warned to plan now because once infrastructure had gone, putting it back was close to impossible. If we sleepwalk into a cashless society, millions will be left behind. We need to guarantee people’s right to access cash and ensure that they can still spend it.”
“If we want to protect cash, we need to innovate, not preserve the past in aspic. Why can’t we get cash at local shops, through cashback, as well as at ATMs? Why can’t we support small businesses by letting them deposit their cash in lockers or smart ATMs rather than face the security risks and costs of a weekly trip to their bank branch? There is huge scope for innovation, not just in digital payments but also in cash.”
“We need leadership of this critical issue from our regulators and government, but success will rely on banks continuing to properly support their customers who rely on cash.”