Why access to cash matters

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. Cash is still the second most popular payment method in the UK, accounting for 15% of all payments in 2021, with free-to-use (FTU) ATMs remaining the main channel through which most people access cash.

Our objective is to support access to cash for UK consumers who need it.

Who regulates access to cash?

We work with other regulators, authorities and industry to make sure there is good access for people who want to use cash. We’re part of the Joint Authorities Cash Strategy (JACS) group, which ensures there’s comprehensive oversight of the UK’s cash infrastructure – including cash production and distribution, bank branches, retailer cashback and shared Banking Hubs.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has the leading role on regulating access to cash, which was confirmed by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 (FSMA 2023). Following this, the FCA published a consultation on their approach and draft rules for the provision of cash access.

The PSR will retain regulatory oversight of LINK, the UK’s largest ATM network, and will work closely with the FCA as it considers and implements its approach to ensure cash infrastructure across the UK remains reliant, resilient and sustainable.

Together with the FCA, we monitor the availability of cash access points across the UK. Our latest estimates (from Access to cash report 2023 Q1) indicate that 95.1% of the UK population are within one mile of a free to use cash withdrawal point, such as cash machines, and 99.7% of the UK population are within three miles. Coverage is generally good at a national level, but there are gaps in some areas. We use our regulatory tools to provide a broad geographic spread of FTU ATMs to ensure they’re in the right place.

What is our role?

We regulate LINK, which allows cardholders to withdraw cash at any ATM connected to its network.

In March 2022, we issued Specific Direction 12 (SD12), which ensures that LINK:

  • maintains a broad geographic spread of the UK’s FTU cash machine network
  • meets service-user needs by having in place and maintaining appropriate and effective policies and measures.

SD12 replaced Specific Direction 8 (SD8) and Specific Direction 8a (SD8a), which placed similar obligations on LINK until they expired in 2022. SD12 will remain in force until 2 January 2025, unless we amend or revoke it earlier. We review SD12 annually to make sure it continues to achieve what we intended, and to assess whether it should remain in place.

In July 2023, we published our first annual review of SD12. We concluded that SD12 is working well and should remain in place. We will engage with LINK on potential improvements to its policies and practices, and will continue to monitor how it’s meeting its commitments.

We’re now conducting our second annual review of SD12, which includes looking at its place in the wider context of the changes to the regulatory landscape introduced by FSMA 2023. You can get in touch with your views until 5pm on Thursday 2 May 2024.

How to contact us

If you have any queries about our work on access to cash, you can contact the team at psrcashaccess@psr.org.uk