The government has instituted new rules that oblige banks to ensure people have access to a cash point within three miles of their local communities, with fines being levied against banks that fail to meet the commitment.
The new rules, imposed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), also stipulate that cash users can expect to make withdrawals without any fees.
A 2021 study suggested that the UK could become an entirely cashless society by 2026 if trends of declining usage continued.
That same year, the number of payments made with cash plummeted by around 50 per cent as consumers were encouraged to use contactless in the wake of the pandemic.
But cash remains vital for many people, particularly vulnerable groups including the elderly and domestic abuse victims who may not have access to other payment methods.
“While the growing choice and convenience of digital payments is great, cash has an important and continuing role to play,” said Andrew Griffith, economic secretary to the Treasury.
“People shouldn’t have to trek for hours to withdraw a tenner to put in someone’s birthday card – nor should businesses have to travel large distances to deposit cash takings.
“These are measures that benefit everyone who uses cash but particularly those living in rural areas, the elderly and those with disabilities.”
As it stands, the vast majority of people living in urban areas can access cash deposit and withdrawal services within one mile; with rural dwellers typically having services around three miles away.
The FCA plans to use its new powers to ensure that this level of coverage is maintained, while recognising that needs may differ by location and change over time.
It also makes clear that – if a service is withdrawn and a replacement service is needed – this should be put in place before the closure takes place.
The FCA is also required to ‘have regard’ to local deficiencies in cash access – with factors such as opening hours and distance to cash access services, as well as the need for in-person assistance, to be taken into account.
Laws introduced in the Financial Services Act 2021 have delivered cashback in over 2,500 shops across the UK – without any need to buy something in-store – through the LINK network.
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