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How to get cashback in a shop without making a purchase

Written by: Emma Lunn
Consumers can get cashback in shops without making a purchase – but only one in six people knows about the scheme.

The government made changes to the law in 2021 to allow people to request cashback from their local store without needing to make a purchase or pay a fee. LINK recently announced that it was rolling this out to 2,000 shops via PayPoint to support access to cash.

But Which? has warned that cashback schemes are not enough to solve the access to cash crisis. The consumer group’s research found that many people view taking out money in this way as inconvenient and even a security risk.

However, enabling cashback without purchase is the only tangible action that the government has taken – so far – to protect access to cash and Which? believes more needs to be done for those people who rely on cash.

A Which? survey of more than 2,000 people found just one in six (16%) were aware of the cashback without purchase scheme, four months after its launch. Amongst those who are aware, only about a third (31%) have used the scheme to access cash, equating to just 5% of the UK population.

For the 46% of people who said they were unlikely to use the service, the main barriers for using cashback without purchase were perceptions that it would not be a convenient way to access cash (25% of those who say they are unlikely to use the service), the lack of privacy when withdrawing cash (17%), and one in six (16%) would be ‘worried about security issues taking out cash in this way’.

A quarter (25%) of people who said they are unlikely to use the service, said it would feel unfair to the shop or business to handle the cashback service.

Which? believes that cashback without purchase is a valuable tool in helping to protect access to cash, and should help to maintain a lifeline to cash for those who live in areas where low footfall means an ATM has closed. It also allows people to withdraw exact amounts rather than be limited to notes which could help people who may be struggling financially.

But Which? says cashback can’t meet all people’s needs for cash and it should be viewed as part of a range of solutions that are required to protect access to cash for those who need it most.

The consumer champion has long called on banks to do more to protect the cash system, and welcomed the decision by major banks to share services to help people and businesses maintain access to cash.

The banks will need to demonstrate that these measures deliver what is needed, and Which? will be watching closely to see if they prevent communities from losing access to cash.

Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: “Schemes like cashback without purchase have a role to play to protect access to cash for those who rely on it, but they won’t be enough on their own to plug the gaps in the UK’s fragile cash system.

“Our research highlights clear limitations of these schemes, with very low awareness and uptake among consumers, and many people viewing cashback as an inconvenient and insecure way to access cash.

“It’s been almost two years since the government promised to legislate to protect access to cash, so it must move swiftly to ensure that consumers will continue to be able to access cash for as long as it is needed.”

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