Britain is not yet ready to go cashless, with about eight million people saying cash is a necessity, according to an interim report by the independent Access to Cash Review.
The Review, chaired by the former financial ombudsman Natalie Ceeney, is assessing consumer requirements for cash over the next five to 15 years.
Its report highlights the overall decline in the use of cash in the UK, as well as a fall in ATM use and an increase in the number of businesses that are becoming cashless.
Ceeney said: “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.”
Findings from the interim report include:
• Over the last 10 years, cash payments have dropped from 63% of all payments to 34%, with the figure projected to fall to 16% by 2027;
• The number of LINK ATM cash withdrawals for the year to November is down over 5% in 2018, compared to the same period in 2017;
• Despite the fall in overall cash payments, 97% of the UK population carry cash with them
• 2.2m people only use cash; and
• 47% of the UK population believe it would be personally problematic if there was no cash in society.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The Access to Cash report highlights a number of concerns from the public about going cashless. In the convenience sector, cash is still the most common method of payment with more than three quarters of customers (76%) paying in cash, and providing access to cash through ATMs remains an essential service that helps other local businesses like window cleaners, markets and other tradesmen that may not have the option of accepting card payments.
“Cash is still an integral part of our society, and banks have abandoned high streets leaving it up to businesses like convenience stores to continue providing access to cash, but LINK’s interchange fee cuts and the high cost of business rates are making it harder to make a business case for hosting an ATM. We urge the Government to protect ATM provision by taking free to use cash machines out of paying business rates altogether and closely monitor the impact of interchange fee cuts, especially in rural and otherwise isolated areas.”
Figures from the 2018 Local Shop Report show that 46% of convenience stores currently offer a free to use cash machine, with 16% offering a charged cash machine.