Where to withdraw? Mapping access to cash across the UK

Authors: Dr Daniel Tischer, Jamie Evans, Katie Cross, Richard Scott (Financial Conduct Authority) and Isobel Oxley (Payment Systems Regulator)
Funded by: LINK
Published by: University of Bristol
Publication date: November 2020

In recent years the UK, along with many other countries, has seen a move away from cash payments to other methods of payment. Despite an overall decline in the use of cash, there are still many people who continue to use cash and to rely on it to make payments. The 2019 Access to Cash Review estimated that 17% of the UK population, over 8 million adults, would struggle in a cashless society, while an estimated 2.1 million consumers rely mainly on cash for their day-to-day spending. Some of the main reasons for this continuing reliance on cash include for budgeting purposes, a lack of digital skills, and concerns about the security of other payment methods.

However, as the use of cash declines, so too does the economic viability of the places it can be accessed, including bank branches and free-to-use cash machines. Recent years have seen bank and building society branch closures and ATMs either close or convert from free-to-use to charging a withdrawal fee. The Coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted not only the importance of cash access to those who rely on it, but also the pressures on the cash system. Reduced branch opening hours, combined with lower usage and acceptance of cash, not least because of concerns about transmissions of Covid-19, have highlighted the vulnerability of groups that want or need to make cash payments.

This research was led by the University of Bristol, in collaboration with the Financial Conduct Authority and the Payment Systems Regulator. It brings together data from multiple industry sources to, for the first time, provide a comprehensive map of cash access points across the UK. Our dataset contains over 110,000 cash access points in total. The main focus of the research was to examine the overall coverage of cash access points based on geographical location, including bank and building society branches, Post Office branches, free-to-use and pay-to-use ATMs, and cashback locations. Through this, we identify the current availability of cash in different areas such as high streets and neighbourhoods, and also the different types of cash access points available in these areas. The report also discusses trends in cash access in the UK, current gaps in the coverage of the cash network, and the changing nature of cash access points.

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