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The Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) says the government must ensure free access to cash for everyone, despite a continued increase in the use of other payment methods.

In the March 2020 Budget, the Chancellor announced that “government will bring forward legislation to protect access to cash and ensure that the UK’s cash infrastructure is sustainable in the long term.”

HM Treasury has issued a call for evidence on the subject of access to cash, including ATMs and the possibility of introducing cashback without purchase in stores.

In response, the NFRN has urged the government to ensure free ATMs are readily available in rural as well as urban areas, and that providing no purchase cashback would be made viable for store owners through new legislation.

Whilst card payments and other payment services are becoming increasingly popular, evidence from HM Treasury shows that a significant proportion of the UK population continues to rely on cash in their day-to-day lives.

In its document Access to Cash: Call for Evidence, HM Treasury says: ‘debit cards are now the most popular payment method in the UK: 17 billion payments were made in total using debit cards in 2019. Nonetheless, industry data shows that 2.1 million people mainly use cash for their day-to-day purchases, with 9.3 billion cash payments made in 2019’.

NFRN National President Stuart Reddish said: “It is important that the regulators have sufficient powers to ensure community interest is a major factor in the maintaining of the ATM network, even with ATMs that have low usage. It remains important to customers, particularly the more vulnerable, that they can have free access to their cash without having to travel large distances.

“For cashback without purchase to become a viable option for retailers, there needs to be change in the legislative framework governing payment services.

“Independent retailers are focused on serving their local communities.  As such, they will want to continue accepting cash for as long as their customers wish to continue paying with it.”

Economic secretary to the Treasury John Glen said: “The government’s overarching objective is to maintain a sustainable infrastructure for cash in the UK, to ensure financial inclusion for all parts of society, including the most vulnerable who rely on cash in their daily lives.

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