Major banks have agreed to share services to help people and businesses maintain access to cash, following a longstanding Which? campaign.
From today, LINK - the UK's main ATM operator, will be in charge of reviewing the impact of bank branch and ATM closure decisions and have the power to fill the gap with the shared services including solutions such as ATMs, shared banking hubs, and enhanced Post Office services.
Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest, Santander, TSB and Danske Bank have agreed to the new approach, and other firms are considering joining too.
The solutions were achieved by the Access to Cash Action Group (CAG), which includes eight major banks as well as the likes of Age UK and the Post Office, set up after for how access to cash could be protected in the long term and in lieu of .
Here, we explain why the proposals are needed and what new cash access and banking services you might find in your area soon.
But millions of people across the UK still use cash daily and many businesses need places to withdraw and deposit it.
It came as our latest analysis revealed the rate of bank branch closures surged in 2021 with 736 branches shutting their doors this year, and over 220 already lined up for closure in 2022.
Future bank and ATM closures to face greater scrutiny
The CAG's proposals mean any community that faces the closures of a core cash service, such as a bank branch or ATM, will trigger an independent review by LINK.
LINK will determine whether a new solution should be provided to meet the community's cash needs, including residents and businesses.
It will have the power to commission services such as a banking hub or better Post Office services to meet the cash needs of the community as a whole - not just the customers of one bank or building society.
Communities will also be able to request a review of their community's needs by summer 2022.
LINK has already assessed most communities where closures have taken place over the last year.
As a result, the CAG has announced new services will be provided in 2022 to fill the gaps that have been identified including 11 new ATMs, five shared banking hubs, and 30 Post Office branches with enhanced cash services.
11 new free-to-use ATMs have been announced in the following locations:
Banking hubs involve banks working jointly to offer basic cash services on high streets, with spaces for people to speak to their own bank. Each bank may offer its own services from a hub, on different days of the week.
The new batch of shared banking hubs will open in:
Eight hubs were launched as a pilot scheme last June, based in Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire and Rochford, Essex.
The initiative helped more than 12,000 customers with access to cash and banking needs.The trial was due to end in October but has been extended until April 2023.
The Post Office will also deliver new and improved cash services in up to 30 branches.
ThePostOfficealready has an agreement with many banks which allows customers to do their everyday banking over its counters.
Nick Read, group chief executive of the Post Office said it was 'very positive' that the company and banks would continue to work together.
He added: 'The Post Office already plays a critical role in local communities, so we are very pleased to have partnered the banks in developing innovative solutions to meet community cash needs.'
The new shared banking services will operate alongside other initiatives to support cash.
This includes 'cashback without purchase' which allows people to request cashback over the till in their local convenience store without needing to make a purchase or pay a fee. The scheme is set to be expanded to more than 2,000 shops by the end of the year and allows people to check their balances and get cashback of up to £50.
Other measures include mobile branches, pop-up services, as well as services for people needing to make payments in their own homes.
Are these measures enough to protect access to cash?
Which? welcomes the CAG's proposals but believes only promised legislation can secure the future of cash.
With over 220 bank branch closures already lined up in 2022, LINK will have a big job on its hands and it's not clear what accountability it will have and how transparent it will be on its assessments.
Which? will be watching closely to see how the measures are working to prevent communities from losing access to cash.