Cashback schemes not enough to solve cash crisis, Which? warns

Which? is warning that enabling consumers to request cashback in shops without making a purchase will not be enough to protect access to cash, as its new research reveals many people view taking out money in this way as inconvenient and even a security risk.

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.

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 swiftly for those 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, after its launch last summer. Amongst those who are aware, only around a third (31%) have used the scheme to access cash, equating to just five per cent of the UK population.

For the 46 per cent 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 as the survey findings reveal, cashback cannot 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.

People should be able to access different amounts of cash to suit their needs, but Which? research found that consumers would feel uncomfortable withdrawing large sums using cashback without purchase. A third (33%) of consumers reported that they would not be comfortable withdrawing £50 in this way. The current withdrawal limit is £50.

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.

However, the government must swiftly introduce its long-promised legislation to underpin these measures and ensure that consumers will continue to be able to access cash for as long as it is needed.

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.”

Notes to editors:


Yonder, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2,046 UK adults online between 9th – 11th November 2021. Data was weighted to be representative of the UK population by age, gender, region, social grade, tenure and work status.

About Which?

Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.

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