The future of access to cash

Access to cash is important for vulnerable consumers and vital for communities and financial inclusion.

Why are we looking at access to cash?

The ability to pay for things is essential to our lives. While technological progress has brought consumers and businesses new ways to pay and be paid, many people still rely on cash to make everyday payments.

While its use is declining, cash remains an important payment method for many, including vulnerable consumers and small businesses. It is part of the FCA’s Business Payments priority to make sure consumers can access the cash they need. And in March 2020, the Government announced an intention to legislate to protect access to cash for those who need it. We’ve also published a joint statement with the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) on our approach to access to cash to understand issues as legislation is developed. 

The story so far

In March 2019, the Access to Cash Review published its final report (PDF). It explored how consumers’ need for cash can continue to be met at a time when technology is advancing and more people are using alternatives such as contactless payments and debit cards. 

We’re part of the Joint Authorities Cash Strategy (JACS) Group, alongside the Bank of England and PSR, and chaired by the Treasury. The JACS Group is working to safeguard access to cash for those who need it, while supporting digital payments. It has published an update on work so far which also sets out which regulators oversee the different parts of the cash system.

Access to cash is a shared problem between industry and regulators. We’re working closely with banks and the cash industry on a sustainable model for people and small businesses to access cash when they need it, while also ensuring they’re supported in using digital payments. 

Access to essential banking services and cash can be affected when banks and ATM providers make decisions to close branches and cash machines. In September 2020, we published guidance on how we expect firms to approach closures to make sure their customers are treated fairly.

Cash and coronavirus

During the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, we worked closely with regulators and industry to maintain access to essential banking services. We supported the coordinated action from the industry that maintained access where possible and signposting to alternative banking services where coronavirus led to closures. We published a short statement on this work in June 2020 and an Insight article in September 2020.

Our next steps

To help inform our work in this area, we’re undertaking research on those who have a greater reliance on cash, with a focus on the needs of vulnerable consumers and opportunities for innovation. We’re also exploring the cash needs businesses have, and what drives them to use cash. We intend to publish these findings early next year.

We have been working collaboratively with the University of Bristol and the PSR to assess different measures of access to cash across the UK. We previously published an Insight article on this, and will be sharing the results with industry and publishing the full report in the coming weeks. 

We will continue to coordinate our work and research with the Government, the PSR, and the Bank of England to ensure a holistic approach.

We’re continuing to coordinate closely with industry on their work to identify a sustainable way of providing future access to cash for consumers and businesses. We will publish the minutes of industry meetings and any other relevant material on the PSR website

We also support innovation that helps consumers and small businesses access cash and provide support to eligible innovative firms working in this area through Innovate and the regulatory sandbox

We’ll update this page as our work progresses.