All the latest news from NoteMachine

Will coronavirus be the death of cash?


Kenza Bryan -  The Times The use of cash has halved in the past week, as customers switch to shopping online and abandon coins and notes over hygiene fears.The World Health Organisation has said that handling cash does not pose more of a health risk than touching any other surface, but campaigners believe that the coronavirus crisis will change our habits, leading to a sharp reduction in the use and availability of cash even after the danger of getting ill recedes.Before most businesses shut down, “card only” signs were popping up in pubs and shops all over the UK. Chains including Costa Coffee, which has 2,500 stores, had stopped accepting cash.Many shoppers have also rejected card payments in favour of Google and Apple Pay transactions on mobile phones. The limit on contactless transactions will increase from £30 to £45 next month in recognition of fears about how physical payment methods could increase the rate of viral transmission.Keeping the nation in cash at a time of crisis is a challenge, particularly in smaller, remote communities where cash use is still high.Natalie Ceeney is the head of the Access to Cash campaign, which is pushing for banks to be made legally responsible for ensuring that customers can take cash out even if they live in remote locations. “The people who need and use cash most are generally the most vulnerable: the old, but also the poor,” she says. “I know some shops are nervous about handling notes, but they should be careful about refusing cash because some people will depend on it. The reality is that handling anything is a risk, whether it’s a plastic bag or a piece of paper.”She believes that up to 30 per cent of the UK population could move away from cash payments to card payments because of coronavirus, first temporarily and then as a permanent habit, in a “dramatic shift to digital”.About 1.3 million adults in the UK do not have this option because they have no bank account, according to the Financial Conduct Authority. Others have limited access to the internet, live in areas where few shops are equipped to accept card payments, or have tight budgets, which are easier to manage using cash. These people are likely to struggle if there is a shortage of cash or of businesses who accept it.Sherwood Fired, a pizza van in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, is one of the many businesses that stopped accepting cash in response to the pandemic. In a normal week the owner, David Finn, sells 500 pizzas for £6 to £9 each.Until two weeks ago half of all his sales were in cash. Now, he thinks the vast majority of his customers will continue to pay by card once the coronavirus threat has disappeared.He says: “Once people get the idea that money can be a bit dirty and can be infectious, that idea will stick and they will avoid it.”Finn, 32, shut down his van when the prime minister ordered all restaurants to close, and is now working on setting up a delivery business. He is operating a buy-one-get-one-free deal for NHS staff. Moving to digital payments has had a cost. He pays 1.75 per cent of each transaction to the payment company iZettle, but says that the fee is worth it to avoid losing customers who wish to pay by card.Gareth Shaw, head of money at the consumer group Which?, says: “It’s understandable that some shops may ask customers for card-only payments to reduce the risk of transmitting coronavirus, but we are concerned that this will leave many vulnerable people unable to pay for the basics they need.“The government and retailers need to find a way to ensure that the millions of people who rely on cash, and may not have a bank card, can still pay for essentials during this difficult time.”Peter McNamara, the founder of the ATM operator Note Machine, says that the number of withdrawals at its cash machines halved last week, but the average value of transactions increased from £62 at the start of the month to £74 last week.Note Machine runs more than 11,000 cash machines and distributes roughly £1 in every £5 in circulation. McNamara says: “The availability of cash is critical if you’re going to keep people able to buy food and groceries.”McNamara says that in the worst-case scenario, if half of his workforce had to go into isolation, Note Machine would only be able to fill half of its cash machines at any one time. Cash handlers are classed as key workers.McNamara estimates that 80 per cent of all withdrawals would still be successful, and last week Note Machine dispensed £310 million across its more than 11,000 cash dispensers.Andy Cox is responsible for the stocking of 2,500 Note Machine ATMs in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle and Carlisle.Cox, 32, has a list of high-priority cash machines that are vulnerable to running out of cash and has reinforced measures to keep his staff healthy and on the road. “You can’t stop the flow of cash,” he says.“Our biggest fear is losing staff to poor hygiene, so gloves have been made mandatory and the lads all have hand sanitiser.”All 66 drivers, security guards and IT staff who work for Cox are defined as key financial service workers whose work is crucial to keeping the economy going during the coronavirus lockdown.Cox’s 11-year-old stepson, Leon, has to continue going to school, alongside the children of doctors, supermarket staff and local government workers. Needless to say, Leon is not thrilled.

Find out more

Businesses urged to keep accepting cash to protect vulnerable


Businesses should keep allowing people to use cash during the Covid-19 crisis to ensure the most vulnerable are able to buy the goods and services they need.Cash is still used as the predominate payment method for many people, especially the elderly and low-income households. Possible moves by businesses to only accept card payments could severely impact those who need assistance the most at this time. Recent studies showed 2.7 million consumers relied almost entirely on cash for their day-to-day expenditure, with cash particularly important to those aged over 54, who Age UK have found struggle more to adapt to new technologies. There are also 1.3 million adults (three per cent of the population) who do not have a bank account, meaning they rely almost entirely on cash as their only payment method.   Peter McNamara, Chief Executive of NoteMachine, whose ATM network provides around 20 per cent of consumer cash in the UK said: “People are shopping for elderly and vulnerable neighbours, friends and families and a lot of these shopping trips will need to be made with cash.    “Even before Covid-19, many of society’s most vulnerable already had a heavy reliance on cash. Removing this payment method at such a critical time would be a devasting blow to many people. They need help to shop, not more blockages, and different forms of payment shouldn’t be discriminated against.  “It is absolutely essential that supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience stores, take-aways and all other businesses continue to accept both cash and card payments, as another vital way we can work together to support the most vulnerable in our communities.”  Gareth Shaw, Head of Money at Which?, said: “It’s understandable that some shops may ask customers for card only payments to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, but we are concerned this will leave many vulnerable people unable to pay for the basics they need.“Both the government and retailers need to find a way to ensure that the millions of people who rely on cash, and may not have a bank card, can still pay for essentials during this difficult time.” Media enquiries:  Sarah GulloWA Communications07715 681 85   Note to editors:  The International Currency Association stated earlier this month:  “There is no evidence that banknotes are more strongly contaminated than any other surface and the dominating opinion among medical experts is that the virus is not being transmitted by banknotes.” Which? is a non-profit organisation working to make life simpler, fairer and safer for consumers during the coronavirus crisis. Which? is making a range of news, advice and guides available for free for anyone who needs it at:

Find out more

New £20 note issued today, but will it be the last?


The long-awaited new plastic £20 notes were issued across the UK today amid a cash crisis which is hitting communities across the country. Labour MP for Torfaen, Nick Thomas-Symonds, visited the Cwmbran Centre’s NM Money this morning to withdraw one of the new notes and call on government to do more to protect access to cash on our high streets at the upcoming Budget on 11 March. NM Money in the Cwmbran Centre was one of the few cash machines in the UK chosen to dispense these new notes on issue day. However, accessing your cash for free is becoming increasingly difficult amid the cash crisis in the UK, with a report this week suggesting the UK’s cash infrastructure is in danger of collapsing in less than a decade.  This crisis is driven by large banks cutting the interchange fee – the payment they make to support infrastructure and ensure their customers can access their cash – meaning cash machine operators are being forced to convert machines from free-to-use to pay-to-use. while banks also cut costs elsewhere by closing branches across the UK in pursuit of higher profit margins. Meanwhile, communities cannot access their own cash and some of the UK’s most vulnerable people pay the price. Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour MP for Torfaen, said:  “It’s great that my constituents can be amongst the first to pocket the new £20 notes. However, the government must act now to ensure these notes are not the last. Free access to cash is vital and must be protected by government, putting the interest of consumers first before that of big banks. The Budget on March 11 is the perfect opportunity for the Chancellor to act.” Peter McNamara, Chief Executive of independent cashpoint provider NoteMachine, said: “NoteMachine is excited to be part of the launch of the new £20 note but is concerned that this might be the last new note the UK sees. An increasing amount of consumers are being forced to pay to access their own, to the benefit of banks’ profit margins. This is not right.  We have argued for years that the changes to the way the ATM network is funded would lead to a loss in free access to cash. It is vital that government and the regulator return to the earlier pricing mechanism which enabled providers to offer free to use ATMs, or risk this cash crisis getting even worse.”

Find out more
Prefer to speak to someone? Please give us a call - 0800 068 9368