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Pensioners and poorest threatened by move to cashless society

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Lower income households and older generations will be hardest hit as bank branch and ATM closures threaten to strip them of vital access to cash, research from a consumer group reveals.

A survey by Which? found over three-quarters of people in the two lowest household income groups rely on cash the most – using it at least two or three times a week.

This group is less likely than average to use a card, with just over a quarter never using card payments.

Older generations are most at risk of social exclusion when bank branches and cash points disappear, with four in five relying on cash – using it at least two to three times a week. Just half of over-65s use a card this much.

Among the general population, almost everyone uses cash (98%), with almost three-quarters using it frequently to pay for goods and services.

Card payments are the second most common payment method – used by four in five with six in 10 using contactless or card payments frequently.

Even in London, where much has been made of the rush to digital payments, only one in 10 people said they rarely used cash.

While just over half of people said they were not worried about moving towards a cashless society, more than two in five said they did have concerns.

Of those who were concerned, more than half were worried about the increased scope for scams with credit and debit cards and – following a series of IT collapses at the major banks – almost half had concerns about the reliability of electronic payment systems.

The survey also found six in 10 respondents had experienced a time when they could only pay by cash in the last three months.

Consumers are also keen to cling on to cash for low-value transactions, as two-thirds felt it was important to be able to use cash for purchases less than £5, while just over half said the same thing for purchases between £10 and £20.

Two in five survey respondents expressed concern about the decline of the ATM network over the last decade.

Recent research shows cash machines are shutting at a rate of 250 a month.

Gareth Shaw, Which? Money Expert, said: “Widespread ATM and branch closures are threatening to leave behind the millions who still rely on cash and our research highlights lower income families and older generations will be among the worst hit.

“Clearly, LINK’s commitment to protect access to cash in vulnerable communities is failing. It is critical the regulator now intervenes to ensure consumers are not at risk of financial exclusion.”

John Howells, LINK CEO, said: “While many consumers are turning to alternative payment methods such as contactless cards, this research highlights how important cash is to millions of people up and down the country.

“LINK will continue to do whatever it takes to make sure that everyone has free access to cash whether that is using an ATM, over a retailer’s till or at the Post Office.”

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