Debit card cashback is a service offered to retail customers whereby an extra amount of money is added to the total purchase price of a transaction (paid by debit card) and the customer receives the extra amount in cash along with their goods. For example, a customer purchasing £18.99 worth of goods might ask for twenty pounds cashback. They would pay a total of £38.99 (£18.99 + £20.00) with their debit card and receive £20 in cash along with their goods. Many customers find this a useful way to obtain cash, instead of making a separate trip to a cash machine. The idea was originally hatched by Tesco in order to reduce the amount of cash banking stores needed to carry out, the customer service aspect being a side-effect of this.

The service is offered by both banks and merchant service providers in countries such as the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Canada and The Netherlands because of the fee structures in use in these locales:

  1. When accepting payment by debit card, merchants pay a fixed commission fee (as opposed to a percentage) to their bank or merchant services provider. (This is because the commission paid by the merchant for accepting debit cards, unlike credit cards, does not need to fund interest free credit or other incentives).
  2. Accepting payments in cash can be costly for merchants, given that many British banks charge around 0.5% for depositing cash into a business bank account, along with the costs of transporting and insuring the cash.

The combination of these two points means that the retailer can save money by offering the cashback service. It does not cost the retailer more in commission to add cashback to a debit card purchase, but in the process of giving cashback, the retailer can "offload" cash which they would otherwise have to pay to deposit at the bank.

Merchants do not offer cashback on payments by credit card because they would pay a percentage commission of the additional cash amount to their bank or merchant services provider.

Some vendors enforce a minimum purchase amount or add a fixed fee when providing cashback to a customer. In many cases, retailers require customers to initial the cashback entry on the till receipt to confirm that they have received the cash. This system is used to prevent cashiers surreptitiously adding cashback amounts to a transaction and keeping the money for themselves (or accusations of same).

Cashback can be useful in many scenarios. In locations where there are no ATMs nearby, or nearby ATMs are out-of-order, a local retailer may be able to supply the required cash instead. Sometimes it is simply more convenient to combine the transactions at the retailer and ATM into a single cashback transaction with the retailer.

Cashback is particularly useful in pubs, where it is usually considered somewhat impolite to pay for each drink (or round, unless very large) with a card. Customers finding themselves without cash can make one payment by debit card, asking also for cash with which to pay for the remainder of the evening.

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