Today the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has published its latest paper on Access to Cash. The regulator commissioned BritainThinks to ask consumers and small businesses from across the UK how they use and accept cash. 
Today’s publication summarises the research and invites further discussion into the implications of these findings. BritainThinks undertook a detailed survey of a demographically representative sample of UK respondents including 1590 consumers and 542 small businesses, informed by focus groups.
It is important that everybody in the UK can choose how they make their payments, in a way that works best for them. Even though people are increasingly choosing other ways to pay, being able to use cash remains important. 
The research illustrates this, as over 80% of the people surveyed had paid for something using cash in the previous week. While the majority of people prefer using cards to make payments, a significant proportion (28%) prefer cash, and those who budget with cash, prefer to pay in cash. The PSR understands that it is really important for these people and, as our research indicates, small businesses, to be able to continue to access cash.
Chris Hemsley, Co-Managing Director of the Payment Systems Regulator, said:
“Cash continues to play an important role in our economy, and while the use of digital payments is growing, most of us still make regular use of cash. 
“This research reveals many important things about how people and small businesses use and access cash, including that most people currently find it easy to withdraw or access cash. But it also highlights the importance placed on being able to access cash by those who rely on it to help them budget and who do not have access to other payment options.”

Research findings

  • Most (83%) consumers made a payment with cash on a weekly basis.
  • A majority (69%) of consumers prefer to use cards.
  • Over a quarter of consumers (28%) prefer using cash; especially for budgeting and control purposes (reported by over half of that 28%).
  • Nearly all consumers surveyed find it easy to withdraw or access cash (95%). This is true for both those that state that they prefer cash and those that do not.
  • 16% say they need to travel out of their way to access cash, with many seeing a trip to an ATM as part of their normal routine.
Small businesses
  • Most small businesses deposit cash in the bank.
  • Cash gets recycled through small businesses when they pay suppliers and employees in cash, or it is taken as personal wages.
  • Over half of the small businesses surveyed (54%) accept cash. This rises to 91% in accommodation and food services.
  • A minority of small businesses (13%) prefer cash.
  • Small businesses report that their choice of which payment methods to accept is strongly influenced by what their customers want.

Next steps

This research contributes the broad debate on consumers use of cash and builds on work by other stakeholders, including HM Treasury, the Bank of England and the FCA.  
The PSR is inviting people to share their views on this research and on the implications of these findings. Of particular interest to the PSR is how cash usage may evolve in future, and how best to ensure a network of cash outlets which meets people’s needs. The PSR has published a short paper to support this discussion.
The PSR will continue to work closely with the other regulators, industry and consumer groups.