No, not more cash in your wallet – although that is a campaign we could get behind too – this is about giving people more access to cash.
That means more cash machines in the high street, more cash accepted in shops and better access to cash for the people who may be excluded from conventional banking.
In recent years, we’ve all heard a lot of talk about the cash-free high street. In certain areas, it’s common to come across shops that won’t accept payment by cash at all, instead asking everyone to pay via their card (or contactless smart wash). The contactless payment revolution has made life a lot more convenient for many of us: just this week, research came out showing that people in the UK spent more on credit cards than in cash last year. But despite the fact that this is a growing trend for many of us, it’s also true that many people still rely on cash.
What’s the problem?
This week, campaigners have issued a warning to Chancellor Sajid Javid, asking for urgent action about the fact that cash machines are disappearing so rapidly in deprived areas. Which? have found that hundreds of cash machines are closing down every month and that this is happening fastest in poorer areas. Unfortunately, many people in these areas rely on cash to get by: in small, rural or isolated communities cash might be essential for paying for goods and services.
However, these are the very same communities that are losing their access to cash when bank branches and ATMs close down. As part of their research, Which? spoke to a range of people who need cash to carry out their lives, including disabled people who need it to pay for suitable transport and local business owners.
On the other side of the coin, there can also be issues in bigger cities when merchants decide to stop accepting cash for payment. This is already common in London, and it means that people who do not have access to a bank account or credit card are not able to make purchases.
For instance, homeless people may only have cash to hand, and by phasing out cash transactions, shops could be making it more difficult for them to buy what they need. This can push people even further to the margins of society, exacerbating existing social problems.
How to get involved
If you’re interested in helping keep cash on the high street, then you can take a look at the Which? ‘Freedom to Pay‘ campaign. You can also vote with your wallet – cash is disappearing because so many of us aren’t using it anymore. Consider making more trips to the local cash machine so that you have a few coins to spare in case you need to leave a tip at a restaurant or make an impromptu donation.
Of course, there’s no obligation to get involved at all. Plenty of groups and campaigners are already working to ensure that nobody is left behind as we move towards a contactless payment future – meaning that reports of cash dying out entirely may turn out to have been exaggerated.