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Consumers prefer cards but cash still in demand, says PSR

Some 69% of UK consumers prefer to pay for goods by card, although 83% use cash to purchase items every week.

They are the key findings from the latest ‘Access to Cash’ paper published by the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), which suggests that despite the increasing digitisation of payments there is still a sizeable need and demand for physical cash across the UK.

The regulator commissioned BritainThinks to ask 1,590 consumers and 542 small businesses from across the UK how they use and accept cash. The headline conclusion from the survey results is that, even though people are increasingly choosing other ways to pay, offering cash as a transaction method remains crucial. 

Some 28% of consumers said they prefer using cash, with over half of those saying it’s particularly important for budgeting and control purposes. Nearly all consumers (95%) surveyed said they find it easy to withdraw or access cash (95%).

However, 16% of respondents said they need to travel out of their way to access cash, with many describing a trip to an ATM as part of their normal routine.

Chris Hemsley, co-managing director of the PSR, commented: “Cash continues to play an important role in our economy, and while the use of digital payments is growing, most of us still make regular use of cash.” 

He added that the survey shows ”the importance placed on being able to access cash by those who rely on it to help them budget and who do not have access to other payment options”.

Most small businesses said they deposit cash in a bank, while 54% said they accept cash – this rises to 91% in accommodation and food services. Only 13% said they prefer cash to card and alternative payment methods, although they acknowledged their choice of payment options is strongly influenced by what their customers want.

The research is part of a wider investigation into consumers’ use of cash and builds on work by the likes of The Treasury, Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority.  

The PSR said it will continue to work closely with the other regulators, industry and consumer groups, and it welcomes feedback to the findings of its latest report.

Focus has heightened on access to cash in the UK in light of a growing number of ATMs closing in the UK. Last year, cash machine network LINK said around 500 ATMs closed each month between December 2017 and May 2018