Banks could be fined if they fail to provide access to cash

People and businesses should be no more than three miles away from the ability to withdraw or deposit cash under plans set out by the Treasury.

The financial services watchdog will be given the power to fine banks and building societies which fail to maintain standards on protecting access to cash.

Treasury Economic Secretary Andrew Griffith said cash had “an important and continuing role to play” despite the shift away from reliance on coins and notes.

Andrew Griffith
Treasury minister Andrew Griffith set out the plans to protect access to cash (Yui Mok/PA)

Currently the vast majority of people living in urban areas can access cash deposit and withdrawal services within one mile, rising to around three miles in more rural areas.

The Government’s policy statement makes clear that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) should use its powers to maintain this level of coverage, while recognising that needs may differ by location and change over time.

It also makes clear that if a cashpoint or other facility is being withdrawn, a replacement should be put in place before the closure takes place to maintain access levels.

Mr Griffith said: “People shouldn’t have to trek for hours to withdraw a tenner to put in someone’s birthday card – nor should businesses have to travel large distances to deposit cash takings.

“These are measures which benefit everyone who uses cash but particularly those living in rural areas, the elderly and those with disabilities.”

The FCA has been given powers to protect the provision of cash access services, including without fees for those who hold personal current accounts.

Building on the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023, the FCA will use these newfound powers to make sure banks and building societies are keeping up to these standards – and have the power to fine them if they do not.

John Howells, chief executive officer of cashpoint network Link, welcomed the Government’s statement.

He said: “Alongside Link’s existing commitments that mean that every high street gets free access to cash, it will mean consumers and businesses will be able to withdraw and deposit cash in major towns.

“The UK is not ready to become a cashless society, so it’s good to see these rules become law.”