Cash has been in steady decline in recent years as many people have turned to different ways of paying. Back in 2006, cash accounted for 62% of payments. It’s predicted that by 2031 this will be down to just 6%.
But that’s still billions of payments, and the people who rely on cash are often some of the most vulnerable people in society.Cash Access UK
In their Annual report published on 17 October 2023, LINK’s Chairman, Sir Mark Boleat, said:
‘Cash usage in the UK continues its long term decline as consumers increasingly choose to move to digital payments. The pandemic saw huge changes with ATM use almost halving. As we move forward, 2023 is likely to see a further reduction in ATM Transactions of 5% when compared to last year. This suggests that the structural decline in cash use that we were seeing before the pandemic is starting once again. This will continue to put great pressure on the commercial providers of the cash infrastructure, including ATMs. However, LINK’s research shows that 5 million consumers still regard the ability to use cash as important’.
In the UK most cash is acquired via the LINK Cash Access and ATM Network, this network connects virtually all the UK’s ATMs and provides communities with access to cash through services such as cash at retailers’ tills and Banking Hubs.
Whether you are cashless, an avid user of cash or somewhere in between here’s ten facts that you need to know.
1 ) Volumes received a boost from the October month end combined with the latest cost of living payment but the impact is likely to be short-lived.
During the Summer daily LINK ATM transaction volumes were consistently less than recent years’ and cool wet weather probably did not help overall activity.
Better weather at the end of August and the beginning of September had narrowed the gap but volumes had still remained very flat and continued their trajectory below previous years’.
However a boost from the October month end coupled with the latest £300 cost of living payment which has started to hit customers’ accounts, saw volumes ahead of 2021 and 2022 but this is only likely to be for a few days until the impact from the one off payment wears off.
With more withdrawn at each visit, whilst the number of ATM visits is declining, the value withdrawn overall has been more resilient – particularly when the sun shines. Thus the value withdrawn has tracked previous years’ more closely. Again the month end and cost of living payment boost has impacted the value withdrawn with this being ahead of the previous three years but like volumes this is likely to be short-lived and we will see values fall back in line as November progresses.
2) Change since July for Wednesdays’ transactions.
Daily LINK transactions graph showing Wednesdays’ over the last four years is shown below. There appears to be a distinct change from early July with no Wednesday volumes busier than recent years’ since then.
3) The proportion of balance enquiries is back to 31% of total transactions.
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 proportion of balances fall back and they are now almost exactly where they were before the pandemic. This suggests that for some consumers at least, despite the huge increase in the use of online banking and banking apps, the ability to check their balance at an ATM remains a valuable service.
4) The volume of ATM transactions has decreased by 33% (pre-COVID)
Weekly LINK ATM Transaction Volumes – for the week ending 29 October the volume of ATM Transactions decreased by 33% when compared to the final week before the first COVID lockdown.
5) The volume of ATM transactions has decreased by 9% when compared to the equivalent week in 2022.
For the week ending 29 October:
- The volume of ATM transactions increased by 6% when compared to the previous week.
- The volume of ATM transactions decreased by 9% when compared to the equivalent week in 2022.
- The volume of ATM transactions decreased by 12% when compared to the equivalent week in 2021.
6) In the week ending 29 October there were just over 28 million ATM transactions
The pattern is very similar to recent years’ although the value and especially volume had been tracking at a lower level. The month end and cost of living boost can be seen in the latest figures shown below with values of £1.7bn ahead of 2022 and 2021 for the equivalent week in those years.
The following chart shows how weekly ATM transactions have fluctuated since 2020 – with the current pattern and month end boost clearly seen.
7) The Volume of ATM Transactions in October down on last year by 8.6%
October saw total ATM transactions 8.6% down from October 2022, a larger fall than September’s and the second largest reduction of the year so far. This appears to suggest that the structural decline in consumers’ cash usage, as they continue to move to digital payments has returned. Other factors affecting cash and ATM usage include to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis reducing overall consumer spending, changes to people’ work, leisure and shopping patterns and possibly the reduced acceptance of cash at some locations. The relatively poor October weather may also be a factor.
Year to date volumes are also down on last year – by 5.7%.
8) Monthly LINK ATM transaction values in October down on last year by 1.5%
The latest date for ATM Transaction Values shows £6.7bn for October which is a fall of 4.1%. The fall in the value withdrawn is less than the fall in volume as the average value withdrawn each time continues to rise.
Another trend which seems to be establishing itself is much is that the monthly figures are much more consistent on a month-to-month basis. Looking back to pre-pandemic 2019 on the chart below you can see there were large increases or falls between months whereas this year the variations month on month are much less.
9) The average withdrawal value now exceeds £83
Average ATM cash withdrawals continue to rise (now at £83.35), as while people are visiting ATMs less often, they are taking out more cash when they do.
This is a very well-established pattern and probably reflects changes in consumers’ shopping, work and travel habits and perhaps a willingness to take out a larger sum, expecting it to last them some time, rather than regular lower values which they only expect to last them a day or so.
10) On average every adult withdrew £1,500 from cash machines in 2022
‘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.’
In LINK’s Annual Report published on 17 October the Chief Executive John Howells said:
‘Cash is still a vital means of payment for millions of consumers, and LINK’s own research shows that over 70% have used cash in the previous two weeks. Consumers value cash for its speed, simplicity, reliability and convenience and even privacy. Many won’t leave home without it, or still make sure they keep a stash at home, even if it’s “just for emergencies”. Despite more and more consumers moving to digital payments, cash remains useful for most people and is still vital for a significant minority’.