Access to Cash review

  • 9 April 2019
  • Briefing | Blog

Is the UK on the path to becoming a ‘cashless society?’. Natalie Ceeney CBE of the Access to Cash Review shares her thoughts. 

We’re hearing more and more talk of the ‘cashless society’. Almost every day there is another story in the media of bank branches and rural ATMs closing, or pubs, restaurants, charities and shops going cashless.

Ten years ago, six out of every ten transactions were cash. Now it’s three in ten. And in fifteen years’ time, it could be as low as one in ten.

The independent Access to Cash Review has been funded by LINK, the UK’s largest cash network, and was commissioned against growing concern. Consumer groups worry about the closure of rural ATMs and bank branches, leaving people without easy access to cash.

Small business associations are concerned about the growing challenges of handling cash: closing bank branches and rising charges make it more expensive and riskier to handle cash.

Rural communities see an increasingly digital world that only works for those with broadband and mobile connectivity.

And the commercial players supporting the cash infrastructure are questioning how a model built for a high-cash economy can be economically viable when most payments are made digitally.

The review conducted extensive research into payment methods trends, international developments, consumer needs and behaviour, and the financial and economic drivers of the cash economy.

Our final report shows that we need to take action and that there are solutions we can adopt to ensure that no one is left behind which are practical and affordable.

We can be more innovative in the way we enable cash access. We can develop digital payments technology in a more inclusive way. And we can re-engineer the cash infrastructure to make it lower cost and more sustainable so that it can support cash for longer.

We can’t wait long for action. Once infrastructure has gone, or communities have been harmed, rebuilding is very hard. But if we act now, we can take steps to stop harm happening, and prepare for a world of lower cash, without societal and economic damage.

This report makes detailed but actionable recommendations as to how Britain can plan now for a world with fewer cash transactions. This means supporting those who depend on cash and including everyone in our future digital economy.

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.