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Update on our work supporting cash access during the COVID-19 pandemic

Published 08 04 2020
Last updated 16 06 2020

Our immediate priority is to work with the other members of the Joint Authorities Cash Strategy (JACS) group, along with authorities and industry to support cash access for consumers that need it now, while also ensuring the safety of firms’ workforces.

We are working with people from across the sector to make sure cash and digital payment networks remain available. We are currently engaging with LINK and independent ATM deployers as a matter of priority.

We need to be mindful of the impact that COVID-19 could have on cash use and industry as we continue to pursue our work to protect widespread access to cash for those consumers that need or want it.

  • At the end of 2018, we took steps to require LINK (the UK’s largest ATM network) to protect the geographic distribution of ATMs. We will continue to encourage the industry to develop effective and comprehensive local community engagement on cash issues – this is an important part of developing our collective understanding of local needs for access to cash, how they change over time, and how these needs can be met. Although we recognise that the roll-out of the recent community engagement work will be affected by the Covid-19 restrictions on movement and resources. We will also continue to work with JACS members, industry and other members to develop long-term solutions for access to cash services.
     
  • In respect of digital payments we, along with the FCA, welcome the industry’s initiative to increase the contactless limit. In addition, the FCA have confirmed that, in the current circumstances, it is very unlikely to take enforcement action if a firm does not apply strong customer authentication when the cumulative amount of transaction values has exceeded EUR 150 or five contactless transactions in a row.  But this is only as long as the firm sufficiently mitigates the risk of unauthorised transactions and fraud, by having the necessary fraud monitoring tools and systems in place and taking swift action where appropriate. 
     
  • More generally, we’ve also issued a joint statement with the FCA, responding to the CMA’s guidance on business cooperation under competition law. It is important that competition law does not impede firms from working together to provide essential services to consumers in the current coronavirus situation. 
     
  • In June, we released a joint statement with the FCA setting out what we identify as some of the key issues, and the focus of our short, medium and long-term work on access to cash. Making sure consumers and SMEs continue to have reasonable access to withdrawing and depositing cash and other payment methods remains a priority for the PSR and FCA. This followed an update from the FCA on its expectations for banks and building societies on maintaining access to essential services, including access to cash, while maintaining workplace safety as we move out of government restrictions.  
     
  • In June, we published more information on our work with the FCA, other regulators and industry mapping access to cash. This included information on coverage of access to cash across the UK and our work monitoring access to cash ‘cold spots.’

 

FAQs in relation to cash

We have compiled a list FAQ’s from across the sector in relation to cash and payments, we will continue to add to this list as we hear from stakeholders.

Will ATMs continue to be stocked with cash?   

The UK cash industry has contingency plans in place to deal with a variety of scenarios, and these are being constantly refined. The industry is closely monitoring developments as they unfold. Banks and cash processors have been building up stocks for some time and are well-placed to manage any increase in demand. 

There is no need to stockpile cash and industry is currently working hard to ensure that customers can continue to pay in their preferred manner.

How to access banking services if bank branches are temporarily closed because of coronavirus?

As noted by the FCA and UK Finance, banks are working hard to reopen branches that have needed to shut as a result of COVID-19. Some branches have external ATMs that will continue to dispense cash even if counter services are temporarily unavailable. 

Customers can also perform everyday banking functions at the Post Office. Personal banking customers have the option to withdraw cash, deposit cash or check their bank balance. Business customers can deposit cash or cheques into their business bank account, withdraw money from their business bank account and check their current balance or get access to change when they need it.

However, the Government has been clear that the single most important action we can all take, in fighting COVID-19, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. We, support the FCA call for customers to only visit branches where absolutely necessary. 

Increase in contactless limit

The majority of small retailers who have a terminal/Point of Sale provided by an acquirer should see their terminal updated automatically. Merchants should receive further information on this change from their acquirer or point of sale provider.