UK Banks Urged To Help Street Vendors Take Contactless Payments

The Big Issue Foundation is urging U.K. banks — as well as the country’s financial regulator — to make it easier for its homeless vendors to take contactless payments.

In order to become a vendor of the Foundation’s namesake magazine, a person must be homeless, in temporary accommodation, possibly losing their home or unemployed and dealing with financial strain. Data shows that about 320,000 people in England and Wales are now considered homeless, with an estimated 600 of the country’s homeless dying in 2017 — a 24 percent increase from five years prior.

In order to earn money, homeless individuals are able to buy the Big Issue magazine for £1.25 and sell it to the public for £2.50.

According to The Financial Times, Big Issue is now asking the country’s retail banks for help so that its sellers can make cashless transactions. Currently, vendors who take cashless payments need to have a bank account, which can only be opened with proof of identity, including a permanent address.

“There is a lot of work being done in this area across the financial industry and we are actively working with a number of retail banks, who, in turn, are having conversations with the FCA to help develop easier access, basic banking facilities that will help support more Big Issue sellers getting a foot firmly back into mainstream society,” said Russell Blackman, managing director of Big Issue.

The Big Issue Foundation recently partnered with Swedish payments company iZettle on an eight-week trial for 20 magazine sellers to accept contactless payments, as well as accept cash. However, all of the vendors had home addresses.

“Our intention following the trial will be to offer more vendors the opportunity to take contactless payments,” added Blackman. “iZettle will continue to support this through offering Big Issue sellers a discounted price to purchase a payment device. However, we know it’s not that easy.”



The pressure on banks to modernize their payments capabilities to support initiatives such as ISO 20022 and instant/real time payments has been exacerbated by the emergence of COVID-19 and the compelling need to quickly scale operations due to the rapid growth of contactless payments, and subsequent increase in digitization. Given this new normal, the need for agility and optimization across the payments processing value chain is imperative.