Cash is an important backup option if digital payments fail (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

While you’re on the go, maybe on your way to work, stop by your local coffee shop for that much-needed caffeinated drink. Then disaster strikes, and it’s not just the price of the Flat White.

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Card machine failure: Contactless and chip and PIN payments will not be accepted until further notice. But you don’t have to drink coffee.

Behind you, a smug person with a £5 note places the order.

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But how likely it is, I understand that you are laughing at me. But the truth is that we trust money more than we think. And contactless and cash can co-exist, so it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Cash is an important backup option if digital payments fail.

It’s also an important way for millions of people to pay for essentials, for which the Post Office said last month it processed more than £800m in personal cash withdrawals, the most since records began five years ago.

10 pound note

If the cost of living worsens, more people could start using cash (Image: Getty Images/Bloomberg Creative)

Think of small business owners, seniors, or people who live in more isolated communities. Also, consider those with limited incomes, who find it easier to track their spending with cash, especially as budgeting becomes more important as the cost of living rises.

According to a survey earlier this year, a fifth of people who use cash occasionally said they would start using it if the cost of living worsened. The right to access and deposit cash requires protection.

But this right is in danger. According to a recent warning from John Howells of LINK, the UK’s largest ATM network, cash could be gone within five years, as a direct result of the strain on the UK’s cash infrastructure.

Enter your PIN at the ATM

Nearly a quarter of free ATMs have disappeared since 2018 (Image: Getty Images)

Closure of ATMs and bank branches: which one? Since 2018, almost a quarter of free ATMs have disappeared, and since 2015, almost half of the country’s banks have closed, leaving the cash system inoperative.

Eliminating bank branches not only makes it harder for customers to access cash, it also makes it harder for them to get face-to-face banking when they need it. While the availability of cash is shrinking in most districts, there are more than a dozen electoral districts without bank branches.

The banking industry has rightly advertised alternatives to branch closures, such as hardened banking centers and post offices. However, they remain voluntary and subject to change based on business decisions. Simply put, there is nothing to prevent a business from opting for alternative service plans at any time.

Along with other groups, Which? has spent years campaigning for the legislative changes needed to protect consumers’ access to cash. This is not to stop progress or protect cash forever, but to protect those who are not yet ready to transition to digital payments.

In July, the government set minimum geographical limits for cash withdrawals and deposits, empowering the Financial Conduct Authority, the financial regulator, to oversee the framework and hold companies accountable. , introduced legislation aimed at protecting access to cash.

This is very encouraging and we are working to get these changes into effect quickly. Given the speed with which ATMs and branches are closing, they cannot be closed any time soon.

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