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UK: Report Recommends Protecting Access to Cash through Legislation

Categories : Cash connects people, Cash contributes to education, Cash is a social network, Cash is available to all users
May 10, 2022
Tags : Acceptance of cash, Access to cash, Regulation, UK
A Royal Society for Arts report found that 48% of the population (25 million people) thinks the disappearance of cash would be problematic, and 10 million people would not know how to cope.
Guillaume Lepecq

Chair, CashEssentials

This post is also available in: Spanish

The Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), a London-based organisation committed to finding practical solutions to social challenges, partnered with Link, the UK’s largest ATM network, to produce a report on access to cash in the United Kingdom. The study builds on the 2019 Access to Cash Review, led by Natalie Ceeney, and concludes that people’s relationship with cash involves “complex emotional and societal dynamics”.

Five Profiles of Cash Users

The report identifies five distinct segments of roughly similar sizes based on a nationwide survey on attitudes and behaviours toward cash and digital payments:

The census provides detailed statistics on the status of cash in the UK. Although cash withdrawals declined during the pandemic, 96% of respondents still withdraw cash at some frequency, 23% at least once a week and 66% at least once a month. Eight million people (15% of the population) used more cash during the pandemic. Cash is still necessary and remains the second most popular payment accounting for 17% of all payments in 2020.

Half the Population view the End of Cash as Problematic

It would be problematic for almost half the population (48% or 25 million people) if there were no cash. One in 5 people (19% of the population or 10 million people) say they would struggle to cope in a society without cash. Almost a third of the population (29% or 15 million people) say they could manage, but it would be a significant inconvenience. Two-thirds of the population (64 per cent) are concerned about fraud when making digital payments.

Protecting Access to Cash by Legislation

The RSA formulates three policy recommendations:

  1. Keeping cash infrastructure viable and avoiding cash deserts.
  2. Maintaining cash acceptance.
  3. Supporting people with the digital transition.

With the pandemic negatively impacting the volume of cash withdrawals and transactions, it becomes even more critical for the government to protect access to cash through legislation to ensure people can access cash. Those wishing to pay by cash should be able to do so, particularly for essential government services. However, the RSA does not call for mandatory acceptance of cash by all retailers. The report stresses the importance of innovation and industry-wide collaboration – illustrated by new solutions such as shared banking hubs or purchase-free cashback – to ensure the future viability of the cash cycle.

The Threats of a Society without Cash

Finally, the report emphasises that the disappearance of cash would have significant societal implications:

  1. While more people are using online payments and banking, three years on from the Access to Cash Review in 2019, the population share that would feel left behind in a cashless society, remains almost identical.

  2. Forcing people on to digital could lead to a loss of control over finances and spiralling debts.

  3. Rural communities and vulnerable citizens could become unable to access cash.

  4. A cashless society could lead to increased isolation and reduced human connection.

  5. A cashless society could lead to mistrust in the payments system due to concerns over fraud, cybercrime, and technology system failures.

This post is also available in: Spanish