UK aims to make it easier to withdraw cash via shop tills

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s government said on Thursday it wanted to make it easier for shoppers to withdraw cash from local shops using a bank card, to mitigate a fall in the number of cash machines.

Cash usage for day-to-day transactions has fallen steeply in Britain in recent years, and the trend has accelerated since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with cash-machine withdrawals now down by a third compared with a year ago.

Reduced usage makes it less viable to operate the machines, which usually allow Britons to withdraw money from their bank accounts with no extra charge, in exchange for a small payment from the bank.

A minority of Britons - disproportionately the elderly or those on low incomes - still rely very heavily on cash, and the government said in March it wanted to ensure it remained easy to withdraw banknotes.

The finance ministry said it would consult on changing rules to allow people to use their bank card to withdraw cash at a shop till, without needing to make an additional purchase as at present.

“When local shops accept and dispense cash, it is recycled through local communities and there is less need to transport and distribute notes and coins via cash centres, which reduces the associated costs,” the ministry said.

British shoppers withdrew 3.8 billion pounds from shops in 2019, compared with 116.4 billion pounds dispensed by the country’s biggest network of cash machines.

The government also said it would consider giving the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) overall responsibility for ensuring a well-functioning cash system.

Current responsibilities are split between the FCA, the Bank of England, the finance ministry and the Payment Systems Regulator.

Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Stephen Addison