The government has published a new consultation paper with the aim of protecting the public’s 'access to cash'.
The growing trend of cards, contactless payments and even paying with your smartphone wallet, apple pay and others has seen the use of virtual payments overtake the usual exchange of cheques, notes and coin. This has gone so far that many ‘high street’ banks no longer have a presence on the high street and cash ATMs are disappearing too. You can even now simply take a photograph of a cheque via your banking app to bank a cheque with no need to ‘walk it’ into the bank.
In particular, this is putting a significant strain on smaller businesses who need local banking facilities to deal with their daily business needs of deposits and withdrawals. It is simply not practical if you live in a smaller town and must drive 15 or 20 miles to the nearest large town or city that has a branch of your bank.
We have already seen some initiatives put in place within this year’s Financial Services Act 2021. At the start of this month a shop, newsagent or other retailer can now provide cash without the need for them to purchase goods or services ‘cash back’ without the purchase. Not that we can see how this will benefit a retailer given ‘merchant’ card charges.
The government is looking to push this even further by imposing geographical limits on banking groups based upon a % of population. The government will target mainly ‘high street’ banking groups with a requirement that if they wish to become a designated ‘access to cash’ firm, they must provide easier access for smaller businesses to make and withdraw cash deposits.
This will eventually become law after the consultation period, with the financial regulator, the FCA no doubt charged with regulating and ensuring access to cash for all.
We actually believe this should go even further where, in an ideal world, you are shopping at your favourite supermarket and whilst paying for your groceries, you may also wish to transfer an extra £20 to top up your pension or reduce your mortgage. Access to cash facilities with the ability to pay a little off your mortgage or top up your pension would bring huge changes to how we manage our debt or build up our savings.