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Banks to be fined if they fail to provide free access to cash under new laws – here's what's happening

Banks and building societies will face fines if they fail to protect consumers' free access to cash under new powers being given to the financial regulator. 

Under new rules set out in the 'Financial Services and Markets Act 2023', which will take force by summer 2024, banks and building societies will have to ensure free cash withdrawal and deposit facilities are available to customers in communities across the UK. Failure to do so could result in enforcement action from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which could include being fined. 

Over a million people rely on cash for their daily spending and it's the second most frequently used method of payment in the country behind debit card. But a swathe of bank branch closures in recent years has caused concerns and the Government has now stepped in to try to protect people's access to cash. 

Struggling to access cash for free or face-to-face banking services? See below, as well as our Bank branch alternatives guide to find out what's available in your area. 

Replacement cash services may need to be provided when branches close

We don't know detailed specifics at this stage as the exact rules, as well as which banks and building societies these will apply to, are due to be consulted on this autumn. However, in the meantime the FCA has confirmed that it will require banks and building societies to:

  • Ensure free cash services can be accessed by the vast majority within three miles of where they live. Currently, the vast majority of people living in urban areas are within one mile of a cash service, while those living in rural areas are within three miles. The FCA's new powers will see banks and building societies forced to maintain this level of free access to cash, or provide replacement services. 

    Providers will also be asked to take into account the needs of that area, for example, if an area has an older population, more cash services may be needed.
  • Provide replacement cash services where needed. Banks and building societies will be required to assess what would be suitable for the local area and ensure that the replacement is accessible to the people who need cash services most. 

    These replacements won't necessarily be like-for-like though. For example, a bank branch that has closed may be replaced with a 'banking hub' – these operate in a similar way to standard local bank branches, but several banks all share the same facilities. 

You can still access cash without a bank branch

There are other ways to withdraw cash, even if your local bank branch has closed. You could search for a free ATM (cash machine) or get cash at a till from a local shop without needing to buy anything. See our guide for full details on where to withdraw cash in your local area. 

When it comes to depositing cash or cheques, if you're struggling to find a local bank branch you could try a post officebanking hub or online banking. See our Bank branch alternatives guide for full details. 

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