ATM Tracker

Weekly ATM value and volume figures 6 March 2022.

Key observations for the week ending 6 March 2022:

  • The volume of ATM transactions increased by 3% when compared to the previous week in 2022.
  • The volume of ATM transactions increased by 21% when compared to the equivalent week in 2021.
  • The volume of ATM transactions decreased by 29% when compared to the equivalent week in 2020.

Last week there was a total of 31.1 million ATM transactions which represents an increase of 0.8 million ATM transactions over the previous week.

In 2022, there was an increase of 5.5 million transactions or 21% when compared with the equivalent week in 2021.

After the usual seasonal fall at the end of December and a slow start to January, activity in 2022 had pulled away from 2021 as expected given the Lockdown restrictions last year. The last two weekends have bounced back after the impact from Storm Eunice and ATM Transaction volumes have now returned to more expected levels.

Source: LINK

From Lockdown 1.0, 2.0, Tiers & 3.0, Steps 1 to 4 out of Lockdown, Plan B, Plan A and now living with Covid…..

This graph shows the impact on ATM Transactions throughout the first year of lockdowns in 2020 and initially at the beginning of 2021 with Lockdown 3.0. This was followed by a gradual increase in volumes in 2021 as restrictions eased throughout the Summer.

From the Summer months onwards activity across both 2020 and 2021 was very closely matched with the exception of the comparison with Lockdown 2.0 in November 2020. The usual seasonal fall at the end of December is clearly evidenced in the graph below which follows a usual pattern that can also be seen in 2020 and 2019.

After a slow start to January, the volume of ATM transactions in 2022 continues to track above 2021 although overall volumes remain below pre-pandemic levels.

Graham Mott, Director of Strategy, LINK, said in their report published on 21 January that: “Anecdotally, locations such as markets or even pubs that pre-pandemic only accepted cash, now all have card readers and continue to actively encourage contactless payments. Therefore, some consumers who are confident using digital or contactless payments, now use cash less often than they did pre-pandemic and seem unlikely to ever revert back. However, we know that there are still more than five million people who rely on cash and digital payments are not an option. It’s therefore good news that while ATM and cash use may have fallen, LINK is committed to protecting access and the Government says it will be bringing forward legislation to support access to cash.”

Source: LINK

This next graph also shows the trajectory of ATM Transactions with the graph also showing the timing of each lockdown and the differing level of restrictions in place.

.Conditions were at their closest over the two years over the Summer with hospitality re-opening at the beginning of July 2020 and with businesses operating under similar restrictions to those currently in place in 2021. The convergence of the graphs shows a consistent level of ATM transactions and value across the two years under these similar conditions.

The two graphs diverged as conditions differed during November but have now converged again as similar restrictions were in place across the two years with both years showing the usual seasonal reduction in volumes at the end of the year.

For the current year transactions can clearly seen to be increasing throughout January and the beginning of February.

In the latest report by LINK published on 4 March 2022, LINK research shows how cash habits have changed through the pandemic. By the end of January 2022, in England, the Government announced an end to Plan B measures. This was the first time LINK conducted the research since summer 2021 and it showed the number of consumers using cash in the last two weeks has now increased to 73%, the highest-level LINK has recorded during the pandemic.

The research also showed a change in where people are using cash. Locations which are showing increasing usage are supermarkets, other retail, services like hairdressing and most especially pubs.  This may be a result of those locations starting to accept cash once again, or at least not actively discouraging it. Locations which have shown very little change are convenience stores (by far the most popular location throughout), fuel, DIY stores and parking.

Assuming conditions this year remain unchanged from now on, we would expect the 2021 and 2022 graphs to merge again around May when restrictions were lifted in 2021.

Source: LINK

The overall volume and value of transactions had been very subdued throughout each of the Lockdowns compared to pre-pandemic levels as shown in the next graph below. This graph shows the pattern as restrictions began to be eased. Both volumes and values are recovering from the seasonal fall and Plan B restrictions with volumes at the time the graph was produced at around 68% and values around 75% of pre-pandemic levels.

Source: LINK

The graph for Mondays below shows the similarity in the pattern of transactions with 2022 above the Lockdown levels at the beginning of 2021 but well below the early pre-pandemic months in 2020.

Yesterday’s figures fell back after the month end boost seen last week but again this pattern is mirrored across the years.

Source: LINK

 Almost two years since the beginning of the first Coronavirus lockdown, LINK, the UK’s main ATM cash machine network has published its latest research looking at COVID-19’s effect on consumers’ attitudes to cash.

Two years on, half of people (50%) say they are using less cash than they were pre-Covid. One quarter (25%) say they are using the same with 4% using more.

Graham Mott, Director of Strategy, LINK: “We monitor ATM use across the UK on a daily basis, but these studies add another layer.  After two years of research, we now have a detailed picture of how people are using cash and why throughout the pandemic.

“LINK’s view is that ATM use will never return to pre-pandemic levels and that people who perhaps were using less cash generally are now entirely comfortable using their phones or contactless. That being said, we’re still seeing £1.5bn withdrawn from ATMs every week. That’s still a lot of money and there are a lot of people who rely entirely on cash.

“Looking ahead, one new development and one we will be monitoring carefully, is that 8% of people say they are going to use more cash to budget and save because of rising living costs. We understand that people are far more comfortable using technology, but importantly, not everyone can use digital and perhaps there’s no better way to budget than notes and coins.”

LINK transaction volumes and values in January and February 2021 were affected by the various lockdowns across the UK with the volume of LINK transactions down 46% and values 38%, when compared to January and February 2020. Restrictions were only introduced towards the end of March 2020 and thus although an increase was seen month on month, the actual volumes in March 2021 were still 26% below that seen in March 2020.

The easing of restrictions led to increasing volumes month on month from April onwards with the monthly volumes also ahead of 2020. The gap had however closed in July reflecting the very similar conditions across the two years – in both cases both retail and hospitality venues had re-opened but with social distancing restrictions in place.

Over the summer and early Autumn ATM use settled into a similar pattern as 2020 when COVID-19 restrictions were broadly the same. From July to October 2021 the volume of transactions was within 1% to 3% of the same period in 2020 although still 34% to 37% lower than in 2019.

In November a divergence re-occurred as 2020 reflects the impact of Lockdown 2.0 with the gap closing again in December. However, December was also up on 2020 by 5% as, while there were Plan B restrictions, they had less impact than the lockdown snd tier restrictions in 2020.

The total number of ATM transactions fell from 2608.4 million in 2019 to 1642.6 million in 2020 – a fall of 37%. There was a further fall of 7% in 2021 with the total number falling to 1521.7 million. However the majority of this fall was caused by the comparison with pre-pandemic levels at the beginning of 2020 – volumes fell by 40% when comparing January to March 2020 with January to March 2021. In the remainder of 2021 from April to December the volume of transactions increased by 8% as activity increased as restrictions were lifted.

With the activity in January and February 2021 impacted by Lockdown unsurprisingly the monthly figures below show volumes increasing by 20% in January 2022 and 21% in February 2022.

Source: LINK

Volumes and values remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels and it seems certain that there has been a fundamental change in how some consumers are using ATMs and cash. However, even with this overall reduction in usage, around £7 billion has been withdrawn each month since restrictions eased at the beginning of the Summer.

The value of ATM Transactions fell by 30% in 2020 compared with 2019. However, although the fall from 2020 to 2021 was only 3% reflecting the higher value per transaction.

Again the difference can be seen through the year with the value falling by 32% for January to March 2021 when compared to the same period in 2020 but increasing by 10% over the remainder of the year.

The increase for January 2022 compared to January 2021 and February 2022 compared to February 2021 can again be seen given the differing conditions across the two years with values increasing by 17%. In line with volumes however this still means a fall of 27% when compared to the pre-pandemic values at the beginning of 2020.

Source: LINK

The following graph also highlights the impact of the Lockdowns during the pandemic but also the resilience of the underlying use of cash once restrictions are lifted.

Source: LINK

The following graph shows the total ATM withdrawals, including on-us where the customer uses their own bank or building society’s ATMs.

The gradual decline each year followed by the shift during the pandemic can clearly be seen. This has been followed by a stabilisation in the volumes in the quarters where restrictions had been lifted – a return to pre-pandemic levels clearly not expected but a halt also in the year by year decline.

Source: LINK

The following graph shows the volume and value of ATM Transactions since January 2020 compared to the Office for National Statistics figures on card use. The trend has been similar for each until November 2021 which shows a marked divergence as card use rose above pre-pandemic levels whereas ATM use in the same month has fallen.

Source: LINK

The graph below shows the impact of the various lockdowns in the average withdrawal amount. The average withdrawal value increased by almost £20 to over £85 during the first lockdown . This would appear to be due to non essential trips being discouraged and this led to fewer outings and thus more cash withdrawn each time. With leisure and hospitality closed there were also fewer opportunities for lower value spontaneous cash requirements.

This was reinforced during each lockdown and the average withdrawal has continued to be high throughout the remainder of 2020 with only a modest fall last Summer.

We had seen the average value fall once again once restrictions were lifted from March 2021 although the average value still remains high compared to historic levels.

Graham Mott, Director of Strategy, LINK said in the report published on 21 January 2022:

“In the second half of last year the numbers were similar to what we saw in 2020. This is beginning to feel like the new normal and we don’t expect the number of transactions, or the amounts withdrawn, to return to anything like pre-pandemic levels. In fact, what we’re generally seeing is that consumers that are using ATMs have formed a new habit of visiting less often but withdrawing more cash each time they visit, typically £10-£15 more.”

Source: LINK

Predictions

With such a sharp drop in ATM transactions during 2020 a further significant shift from cash to digital may have been the logical expectation for 2021 but the volume of ATM transactions remained remarkably consistent once restrictions were lifted. During November the activity for 2020 reflected the impact of the second lockdown and an increase in the year on year comparison for both volumes and values occurred – caused by the fall in 2020 rather than any significant change in the activity in 2021.

Over the New Year weekend the activity in 2021 was ahead of 2020 although again still significantly below the pre-pandemic levels. This remains the case in the first few weeks of 2022 as we return to more normal levels of activity but 2021 still reflects the impact of Lockdown 3.0.

Thus, although the volume and value of digital payments are continuing to grow, a considerable number are still reliant on or are choosing to rely on traditional payment methods including cash.

‘Cash is still vital to so many people,’ says Nick Quin, head of financial inclusion at cash machine network Link.  ‘Millions of people are choosing new ways to pay but, last year, on average, every adult in the UK still withdrew almost £1,500 from cash machines across the country.’

This is reflected in the consistent underlying level of ATM cash transactions seen as restrictions were lifted during 2021. Although levels are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels, we expect to see a similar underlying volume of ATM transactions throughout 2022.

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