We are committed to making sure people can access the cash they need. Read how new legislation has given us powers to act where we find or anticipate significant impacts on consumers’ ability to access cash.
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Our new powers to protect access to cash
The Treasury published a Cash Access Policy Statement on 18 August 2023. We published our own Policy Statement on the same day, which sets out our overall approach to cash access in the UK (including how we've considered the Treasury’s Policy Statement), as well as next steps.
The Financial Services & Markets Act received Royal Assent on 29 June 2023. When Schedule 8 is commenced, it will provide a framework within which we will seek to ensure the reasonable provision of cash withdrawal and deposit services for personal and business current accounts across the UK. The Act gives us new powers, in particular to act where we find or anticipate there will be shortages in cash access services which would have significant impacts on local areas.
Before we make any rules under these new powers, we will conduct a public consultation, including a cost-benefit analysis.
We welcome that, ahead of legislation, firms and the Cash Action Group, have appointed LINK as an independent body to assess the needs of local communities and direct cash solutions. We will continue to monitor how this initiative develops and use what we learn to inform our proposed future regulatory regime.
We will continue to publish updates on access to cash coverage to inform our policy work and to ensure we can act quickly if we see problems emerging. More on our research and data publications is set out below.
Why access to cash is important
Our Financial Lives 2022 survey found that 6% of adults in the UK used cash to pay for everything or most things over the 12 months since May 2021, with this figure increasing (9%) for those in vulnerable circumstances.
Our data shows that most people currently have reasonable access to cash. As of Q2 2022, 95.1% of the UK population are within 1 mile of a free-to-use cash withdrawal point, such as cash machines, Post Office branches or bank/building society branches, and 99.7% of the UK population are within 3 miles of a free-to-use cash access point.
But, the long-term decline in the use of cash cash through technological and social change has made it more expensive for individual firms to maintain their existing infrastructure, in response we updated our guidance to deliver good customer outcomes when branches are closed.
Along with the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), the Bank of England and the Treasury, we are committed to protecting access to cash – particularly for consumers in vulnerable circumstances who rely on it. This is part of our business plan commitment to put consumers' needs first and to ensure they can access the cash they need.
Our new powers will not extend to the provision of wider banking services and are not directed towards the maintenance of branch networks, including closures. The FCA will however continue to supervise bank branch and ATM closures or conversions to ensure customers receive good outcomes as required under the Consumer Duty.
We updated our guidance for firms in October 2022. We also shared information on the good practice and areas for improvement we have identified when supervising firms planning branch or ATM closures or conversions.
We will continue to engage with stakeholders on access to cash and we expect to consult on any rules we propose to make under our new powers in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023.
We will continue to publish updates about access to cash coverage to inform our policy work and to ensure we can act quickly if we see problems emerging. More on our research and data publications is set out below.
The story so far
In August 2023, we published our Cash Access Policy Statement setting out our overall approach to cash access in the UK.
As part of the Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group, alongside the Bank of England and the Treasury, the FCA and PSR have collected evidence, data and research to support individual and collaborative work on access to cash.
During the pandemic, along with the PSR, we worked with industry to address the challenges of ensuring cash access for the people who want to use it. As a result, even at the height of the pandemic no more than 0.1% of the UK population lost access to a source of cash within 3 miles. We published a short statement on this work in June 2020 and an Insight article in September 2020.
In September 2020, we published guidance setting out our expectation that firms should consider the impact of branch and ATM closures on their customers’ everyday banking needs and consider the availability and provision of alternatives. We have been supervising firms closely as they consider branch closures, assessing plans based on the risk of harm to consumers. In January 2021, we asked banks to pause closures where, due to the pandemic, they are unable to meet the expectations laid out in our guidance.
In May 2021 we published a joint statement on access to cash with the PSR to clarify that we expect firms to help protect access to cash and wider banking services in ways that meet consumers’ needs. Sheldon Mills, Executive Director of Consumers and Competition, also highlighted the importance of action by individual firms and the wider industry at the Which? Cash Summit in May 2021.
In July 2021, we published research commissioned by us to Savanta ComRes on trends in consumers' use of cash followed by research published in November 2021 on Small and Medium Sized businesses’ (SME) use and acceptance of cash. This research gives us accurate data and evidence to inform our policy work on access to cash, enabling us to focus on those who need and use cash the most.
In December 2021, we issued a statement welcoming the announcement that the Cash Action Group had created an independent co-ordinating body (LINK) to assess the needs of local communities and direct cash solutions including shared banking hubs.
Ongoing assessment of the UK’s cash infrastructure
The FCA and PSR also provide quarterly updates on the assessment of the UK’s Cash infrastructure:
- Access to cash update – Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar)
- Access to cash update – Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun)
- Access to cash update - Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep)
- Access to cash update - Q4 2021 (Oct-Dec)
- Access to cash update – Q1 2022 (Jan-Mar)
- Access to cash update – Q2 2022 (Apr-Jun)
- Access to cash update – Q4 2022 (Oct-Dec)
- Access to cash update – Q1 2023 (Jan-Mar)