Last updated - 23 July 2021
It’s important that everyone has a good choice of how to make payments, in ways that work for them. While UK consumers and society are increasingly using a wide range of ways to pay, being able to pay with cash remains important.
Use of cards and other digital methods are increasing – cards are now the most frequently used payment method in the UK. However, there are still a significant number of people – over 5 million, according to the latest data – who, for a range of reasons, remain reliant on paying in cash. Our objective is to support access to cash for UK consumers who need it.
What we have been doing?
Since September 2020, when we published a joint-working statement with the FCA, there have been developments in how we ensure people can continue to access their cash. More recently, our joint statement with the FCA in May 2021 provided an overview of the work that we had been doing and giving an outline of our expectations on industry.
Here, we provide an overview of our work to date on access to cash.
We’ve sought feedback through call for views documents and carried out research to helped inform our thinking. These insights have proved useful in shaping our discussions with industry and the policy decisions we have taken. We have published that insight, starting with our research into cash access, usage and acceptance in July 2019. This provided an overview of what is needed to support cash access which meets consumer need.
We asked for views on the incentives to deploy free-to-use (FTU) ATMs in the LINK network. This piece particularly focussed on why ATMs are placed where they are and what factors might affect where they are placed – including on the impact and structure of the interchange fees. The responses to that call for views were published in September 2019.
To supplement our earlier research, in October 2019, we hosted a roundtable discussing people’s cash needs, how those needs are being met and how they should be met in the future. A summary of these discussions was published in March 2020. One of the key takeaways from this discussion was the need for a “bottom-up” local engagement approach to fill gaps in cash access. We subsequently drove industry to do more to develop effective local engagement schemes to identify local areas where cash needs might be underserved and how these might be best addressed.
COVID-19 impacted our work in this area. During March and April 2020, we collaborated with the FCA and industry in identifying and managing temporary gaps in cash provision that were a result of COVID-19.
In June 2020, we published an outlook of cash access coverage in the UK. This found, on average, 93% of the population had access to cash within 1 mile and 88% of the population had free access to cash within 1 mile.
Working with the FCA and University of Bristol, we developed a comprehensive report on cash access points across the UK. This was published in November 2020.
In July 2021, the PSR and the FCA published an assessment of the UK’s access to cash infrastructure, taking into account the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, alongside new FCA research on consumers who rely on cash. You can find out more about the publication here and on the FCA website.
Specific Direction 8 (SD8)
In October 2018 we issued SD8, which required LINK to do all it can to fulfil its commitment to maintain the broad geographic spread of free-to-use (FTU) ATMs. We said that we would review this direction annually to make sure it continued to achieve what we had intended it to do.
In March 2020, we published the outcome of our first annual review of SD8, and concluded that SD8 should stay in place.
On 1st July 2021, we published our second annual review of SD8 and concluded that SD8 should remain in place until it expires in January 2022. Many of the reasons that support keeping SD8 in place until January 2022 are likely to apply beyond January 2022. We are therefore minded to issue a new Direction to replace SD8 when it expires. We will assess the evidence in detail over the summer.
Our future work
The PSR and the FCA are committed to ensuring that cash, and the infrastructure that supports it, remains available for those who need it. Our priority remains the ATM network, to ensure the UK’s cash system remains sustainable and resilient and continues to provide access to those who need it.
Legislation is a key part of protecting access to cash over the longer term. We welcome the Government’s proposals to ensure that the FCA has the right responsibilities and powers to oversee the cash system. We and the Bank of England will continue with our existing roles overseeing LINK to support the delivery of cash access for consumer and SMEs.
This page will be updated as our work progresses.
How to contact us about this work
We are interested to hear all views and evidence that will help to inform our work on access to cash. You can send any comments to PSRcashaccess@psr.org.uk
News, announcements and speeches
CP19/6: Responses to our Call for Views on our research into cash access, use and acceptance, and summary of our roundtable discussion
We are publishing a summary of the roundtable discussion we held on 9 October 2019 on our research into cash access, use and acceptance.
Chris Hemsley's speech at the Westminster Business Forum - 23 January 2020
This is the text of the speech as drafted and may differ from the delivered version.
The UK's ATM network