The areas of the UK where cash withdrawals declined most in the pandemic

Almost £100m less cash is being withdrawn from UK ATMs compared to before the Covid pandemic, cash machine operator Link has revealed.

The total value of Link ATM withdrawals is currently running at around £1.6bn a week, compared with around £2.2bn in 2019.

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The frequency of withdrawals has also been hit, Link said, with the average person getting cash out fewer than two times per month.

This is compared to three times a month in 2019.

But people are taking out an average of £10 more per ATM visit now than in pre-Covid times, with the average withdrawal sitting just under £80.

For example, in Scotland the total value of withdrawals dropped £11.4m between August 2019 and August 2021 as the volume of them fell 43%. But the value of each withdrawal rose by an average of £9.

Why have ATMs become less popular?

Link’s head of financial inclusion Nick Quin said the changes had been brought about as “people are choosing new ways to pay for things”, such as contactless card payments.

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However, he added the pandemic had “turbocharged the switch to digital”.

Cash use has been in decline since the early 2010s, thanks in large part to the advent of contactless payments.

According to the Bank of England, 23% of all payments in the UK were made using cash in 2019 - down from almost 60% just a decade earlier.

Figures from banking and finance industry body UK Finance show that this decline accelerated in 2020, falling 35% compared to 2019.

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Before last year, the rate of cash payments had dropped by around 15% a year since 2017.

UK Finance said cash had been particularly affected by the pandemic because retailers had been urging customers to use contactless payments owing to fears about cash being a vector for the transmission of Covid-19.

As part of these concerns, the Government upped the contactless limit to £45 before extending it to £100 in October.

The areas with the biggest declines in ATM withdrawals

Here is a full list of the UK constituencies which saw the biggest percentage drops in ATM usage between August 2019 and August 2021:

Edinburgh East, 63% drop

Cities of London and Westminster, 60%

Edinburgh North and Leith, 60%

Holborn and St Pancras, 58%

Edinburgh South, 56%

Glasgow Central, 56%

Edinburgh West, 56%

Crawley, 55%

Belfast South, 54%

Bristol West, 53%

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Cash ‘still important’

Despite the decline in cash payments and the related drop in ATM usage, Link said cash remained important.

It pointed to Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) figures in 2020 showing that more than five million people greatly rely on cash every day.

In 2021, the network said it had heard from more than 400 communities wanting better cash access.

It has installed around 70 ATMs across the country in response to those requests and a further 30 in areas identified as lacking cash access.

Link said it is encouraging people to speak up if they find it difficult to access cash free of charge.

The Government has said it intends to protect cash use through legislation.

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