Visa rolls out cash access incentives for UK merchants in underbanked communities

Visa is launching a program in the U.K. designed to increase access to cash in more remote communities where bank branches and ATM coverage has been diminishing for years. 

Following up on a 2019 pilot program with Lloyds Banking Group, Visa is expanding the program where it will offer incentives to merchants to provide cash back to customers using a Visa debit card. 

“As with all innovation, the opportunity to run a pilot allowed us to accelerate the development of the scheme,” a Visa spokesman told Mobile Payments Today via email. “Our ‘access to cash’ pilot with Lloyds Banking Group in early 2019 was a vital step towards getting us to where we are today and being able to launch the industry wide scheme.”

Lloyds, one of the largest banking groups in the U.K., has more than 7,000 branch locations, 50,000 ATMs and also offers services through 11,500 Post Office locations. However, the cash access problem has been a longstanding issue for many low income and rural communities, where customers have a dearth of bank branches and often have to make long drives to get to a local teller or bank ATM to make a deposit or cash a check. 

In addition, many ATM machines in retail stores offer limited services compared with the more robust capabilities of an in-branch ATM machine. 

“In many rural U.K. towns and villages, there are no remaining bank branches, requiring residents to commute to a nearby town to access cash,” Nick Maynard, lead analyst at Juniper Research told Mobile Payments Today via email. “This is a problem for those who lack transport, particularly the elderly, where digital payments are not well established.”

Maynard said a program like this can help, because retailers in the past have had little incentive to offer cash to customers in place of available banking services. 

“Network led initiatives such as this can improve this situation if the incentives are well judged,” he said. 

He noted that rival Mastercard has a similar program in the U.K. to improve cash access. 

Cover image: Visa