Use of cash

In recent years, cash has been used less often for payment by people and businesses, while the use of digital payment methods – led by debit cards – has accelerated.

The pandemic saw a particularly sharp drop in cash use, with cash payments accounting for just 17% of all payments in 2020.

Payments by cash and other methods

Access to cash from any source

In Oct-Dec 2021, 4.3% of the UK population lived further than 2km from a bank, building society, Post Office branch or ATM where they could access cash.  In Northern Ireland 16.3% of the population lived further than 2km away.

Bank branches

Since the mid-1990s, the number of bank branches in the UK has been falling steadily, whilst the number of building society branches has been more steady. Between 2012 and 2021, the total number of bank and building society branches in the UK fell by 34%.

Number of bank and building society branches

There have been falls in the number of bank and building society branches In all UK countries and regions over this period.   The smallest decrease was in Northern Ireland (-3%) and the largest was in the South West (-40%).

Post offices

Post offices provide some consumer financial services and sometimes act as an alternative to bank branches. In March 2021 there were 11,415 post offices in the UK. Post office numbers are discussed in detail in Library Briefing Paper Post office numbers.

ATMs

ATMs (cash machines) provide essential financial services to individuals by provding access to cash, balance and account information and some other limited functions.

At the beginning of May 2022 there were 52,258 cash machines in the UK, 78% of which were free to use. The total number of ATMs in the UK peaked in 2015 and has fallen each year since then.

Between July 2018 and May 2022, the number of ATMs in the UK fell by 13,679 or 21%.  There was a fall in the number of ATMs in all regions and countries of the UK. The largest fall was in the London (-25%). The smallest fall was in Northern Ireland (-13%).

ATM statistics by year

Data

The Excel file attached to the landing page for this briefing contains data underlying the charts, and some constituency data for ATMs.


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