Who are LINK?
LINK is the UK’s cash machine (ATM) network and the busiest ATM transaction switch in the world. Effectively every cash machine in the UK is connected to LINK, and LINK is the only way banks and building societies can offer their customers access to cash across the whole of the UK. All the UK’s main debit and ATM card issuers are LINK Members.
The LINK Network is a fundamental part of the UK’s payments infrastructure and cash machines are by far the most popular channel for cash withdrawal in the UK, used by millions of consumers every week. The total value of LINK cash withdrawals can exceed £10 billion per month and at its busiest, LINK processes over 22,000 transactions a minute.
The following “ten things you should know” have all been sourced from LINK’s Annual Report 2021/22.
Track the UK’s use of cash with Northey Point weekly ATM tracker.
Ten things you should know about LINK and the use of cash in the UK:
#1: LINK has four key objectives
In early 2020 LINK set out its plan for the next three years; how LINK will manage the fall in cash usage in a way that ensures a smooth transition from cash to more digital payments.
LINK’s Strategic Plan is built around objectives that address the challenges that LINK will face. Delivering access to cash for UK consumers for as long as they need it is the focus of the access to cash objective. Maintaining confidence in the LINK Payment System is the focus of the operational resilience and risk management objectives. Retaining the support of large Members, without which LINK cannot exist, is the focus of the membership objective.
#2: LINK in numbers
31 million different cards are used across the LINK network every month to provide universal access to cash in a safe, convenient and rapid manner.
#3: The average amount of cash withdrawn per visit to an ATM is £80
#4: 54% of cash withdrawals are made via Remote ‘free to use’ ATMs
#5: LINK have an active financial inclusion programme
#6: Cashback without a purchase has been rolled out across the UK
Following a year-long trial to allow people to use retailers’ tills to withdraw cash and the amendment to the Financial Services Bill, cashback without a purchase has now been rolled out across the UK.
Using LINK’s ATM switch, consumers can withdraw any amount up to £50 from their accounts from participating retailers’ tills. That isn’t limited to notes – and it can be as specific as £3.63.
LINK expects this service to be rolled out to more and more shops in the coming months and it is hoped that this service will become a valuable additional cash access point –providing more convenient options to get cash out and ensuring that consumers who have small amounts left in their accounts can access it without travelling to their bank branch.
#7: Withdrawals at ATMs by the end of 2022 will be almost half what they were just before the pandemic
….but 10 million consumers still rely on cash and the UK is not ready to go cashless yet.
Cash usage in the UK continues its long-term decline as consumers increasingly choose to move to digital payments. Withdrawals at ATMs by the end of 2022 will be almost half what they were just before the pandemic. This ongoing decline puts great pressure on the commercial providers of infrastructure such as ATMs and will inevitably lead to lower numbers over time. However, LINK’s research shows that 10 million consumers still rely on cash and the UK is not ready to go cashless yet.
Sir Mark Boleat, Chair, LINK
#8: ATMs account for almost 90% of cash acquisition in the UK
LINK processes over 4.5 million cash withdrawals and balance enquiries a day and ATMs account for almost 90% of cash acquisition in the UK. Ensuring that the network runs safely and is easily available to all consumers is our priority. Cash remains a vital means of payment for 10 million consumers and many more value cash for its reliability and convenience and won’t leave home without it. Despite the steady move to digital payments methods, this important role for cash will remain for some time.
John Howells, CEO, LINK
#9: There are currently 40,000 free-to-use and 11,250 pay-to-use ATMs
There are currently 40,000 free-to-use and 11,250 pay-to-use ATMs operating across a highly diverse range of UK locations from bank branches to pubs, from train stations to convenience stores. Despite the massive decline in cash usage seen through the pandemic, free ATM numbers remain stable, and the number of free machines outside of bank branches, which form the backbone of the footprint available to consumers, has actually increased to 27,103 from 26,747 over the last 12 months.
#10: Balance enquiries are 31% of total transactions
The proportion of balance enquiries was another area which saw change during the pandemic. For many years, balances were consistently around 31% of total transactions. Lockdowns, both in 2020 and early 2021, saw them rise up to 38% as consumers wanted to check how much cash they could take out, perhaps knowing they may not be visiting an ATM again for some time. In so called “normal” periods during the pandemic, the summers and into autumn, the proportion of balances fall back and this year they are once again exactly where they were before the pandemic.
Ten things you should know
The “ten things you need to know” have all been sourced from LINK’s Annual Report 2021/22.
Track the UK’s use of cash with Northey Point’s weekly ATM tracker.