Weekly ATM value and volume figures 15 May 2022.

Key observations for the week ending 15 May 2022:

The volume of ATM Transactions decreased by 27% when compared to the final week before the first COVID lockdown.

  • The volume of ATM transactions decreased by 1% when compared to the previous week in 2022.
  • The volume of ATM transactions increased by 6% when compared to the equivalent week in 2021.
  • The volume of ATM transactions increased by 27% when compared to the equivalent week in 2020.

Last week there was a total of 30.9 million ATM transactions which represents a decrease of 0.3 million ATM transactions over the previous week.

In 2022, there was an increase of 1.8 million transactions or 6% when compared with the equivalent week in 2021.

Volumes in 2022 have been consistently greater than 2021 reflecting the differing conditions across the two years.

In the second half of April 2021, with restrictions at that time, this led to a spike in activity and the gap between 2021 and 2022 then narrowed to a difference of just 2%. However indoor hospitality did not return until the third week of May and the early May bank holiday failed to provide any further boost last year. In 2022 with all restrictions removed and warmer weather returning the gap over the bank holiday weekend widened with the volume of ATM Transactions at the highest level seen so far this year.

The volume and value of transactions has dropped back since the bank holiday weekend to normal mid-month levels so the gap between 2021 and 2022 has narrowed again. With just under £1.6bn withdrawn and just under 31 million transactions the underlying importance of cash continues to be seen – despite being well below pre-pandemic levels.

Source: LINK

Through Lockdowns to 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.

In the first few weeks of 2022 the volume of ATM Transactions continued to track above 2021 but initially well below the pre-pandemic levels seen in 2020. However, since the end of March overall weekly volumes of ATM transactions have been above both 2021 and 2020 given the lockdown restrictions in place for the equivalent weeks in both years.

The graphs for 2021 and 2022 were beginning to merge as restrictions were reduced in April 2021. However with all restrictions removed this year, there has been a spike in the volume of transactions boosted by the early May bank holiday weekend.

The volume of transactions in 2022 is likely to remain above those for the equivalent weeks in 2020 until the end of July when the ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme boosted trading in 2020 after the first Lockdown. All 3 graphs are expected to merge from that time.

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 then 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.

In 2022 the volume of transactions can clearly seen to be increasing throughout each month to date and consistently tracking above 2021.

In the 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 had 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.

The three graphs are expected to merge over the Summer months as similar conditions would be in place during that time. Given the trajectory to date the volumes of transactions in 2022 may continue to track just ahead of the previous 2 years although well below pre-pandemic levels.

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 have recovered from the seasonal end of year fall and Plan B restrictions. Volumes at the time the graph was produced are around 70% and values around 78% of pre-pandemic levels.

Source: LINK

The graph below from LINK shows Thursdays’ transactions over the last four years clearly showing the fall in 2020 as the first Lockdown was announced.

Thursdays’ ATM use is currently tracking about 8% above last year’s and even further above 2020, although well down on pre-pandemic levels.

Source: LINK

The following graph shows the recent volume of daily LINK ATM transactions from the last four years clearly showing the fall from pre-pandemic levels but also the increase between 2020 and 2022 with the first Lockdown in 2020 still being in force over this time.

2022 has seen a peak in daily activity in the lead up to the bank holiday with growth falling back again after the weekend. Each year has followed a similar pattern of activity albeit with a significant difference between the pre-pandemic levels and the lows through Lockdown.

Source: LINK

The following graph depicts the daily withdrawal value again across the last four years. The daily value is tracking just above last year despite there still being some restrictions still in place then.

Source: LINK

LINK, the UK’s main ATM cash machine network has recently 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.

The total number of ATM transactions fell from 2608 million in 2019 to 1643 million in 2020 – a fall of 37%. There was a further fall of 7% in 2021 with the total number falling to 1522 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 the first four months of 2021 impacted by Lockdown the monthly figures below show volumes increasing by 20% in January 2022, 21% in February 2022, 18% in March 2022 and 10% in April 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 falling back only slightly in the first months of the year which have always been more subdued but back on track in March and April.

The value of ATM Transactions fell by 30% in 2020 compared with 2019. Although mainly due to the Lockdown conditions throughout much of the year there had already been a reduction seen in the first 2 months of 2020 with values reducing by 12% when compared with the first 2 months of 2019.

For 2021 the value fell by 32% for January to March when compared to the same period in 2020 but increased by 10% over the remainder of the year as restrictions eased.

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%. This has continued into March with values increasing by 16% when compared with March 2021. With restrictions beginning to ease in April 2021 the gap has narrowed but the value of ATM transactions in April 2022 still increased by 9% when compared with April 2021 – increasing to £7bn in 2022 compared to £6.4bn in April 2021.

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.

April figures show a small increase on March helped by the lead up to a busy May Day bank holiday weekend.

Source: LINK

The average withdrawal value increased by almost £20 to over £85 during the first lockdown. Non essential trips were 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 ever since as shown in the graph below.

The average withdrawal value in April was £79.91 almost identical to the previous month, slightly down on 2021, but well above the pre-pandemic average of around £65. The average value may continue to fall as consumers have more opportunities to make spontaneous low value cash withdrawals now COVID-19 restrictions have eased.

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.

Although the volume of ATM transactions is currently tracking ahead of 2021 and 2020, due to the Lockdown restrictions in place in the previous 2 years, we expect the graphs to merge over the Summer months reflecting the similar conditions across the three years.

Thus, although we are unlikely to see the volume of ATM Transactions return to pre-pandemic levels, 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 and we expect to see a similar underlying volume of ATM transactions throughout 2022.