Only one in 10 payment transactions in the UK will be cash within the next decade, according to ITV’s Cash Free Britain?, but retailers say cash will always be king. 

The current affairs show, which aired on 2 January, revealed cash was used in less than a third of all transactions in 2019, compared with double the figure 10 years ago. 

It also highlighted a growth in the number of cashless businesses, adding that the trend is so significant in Sweden that researchers suggest the Scandinavian nation could be the first cashless country by 2023.

However, Raj Aggarwal, of Spar Wigston in Leicester, said free access to cash is still vital to his customers, adding that his ATM provider, NoteMachine, has informed him of a plan to implement a charge on all transactions, which is likely to damage his sales.

Importance of cash to retailers reinforced

“We do around 10,000 cash withdrawals per month. A lot of my customers still prefer to use cash and there are no banks or Post Offices within walking distance.

“It’s not up to us to dictate to customers how they should make purchases,” he said. 

“For many of my customers, this is the only way they know how to manage their money. If they don’t have access to cash, I will lose business – I’ve already seen it happen.

“There is no way I’d be able to turn my business cashless. There’s all this nonsense about how there’s going to be a cashless society, but cash is still king.”

Just days into the new year and access to cash has already been the subject of heated debate following the news of Link’s planned fee cut – likely to result in a wave of local ATM closures, according to ACS chief executive James Lowman, who has urged the cash machine network rethink its decision. 

Copper coins under scrutiny

NFRN national president Stuart Reddish said its members were “concerned about the knock-on effect in accessing cash and charges”. He added: “We welcomed the decision to cancel the third cut and urge Link to do the right thing and cancel the fourth and final cut as well.”

Diebold Nixdorf, however, announced plans to roll out ATMs offering basic banking services within the next five years – an opportunity from which independent retailers will be able to benefit. 

Speaking during the ITV programme, Stephen Jones, from UK Finance, outlined the company’s Community Access to Cash Initiative. “We’re inviting local communities to apply for grants to explore different [access to cash] options that might be suitable within a community,” he said.

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