Access to cash coverage in the UK 2021 Q3

This is an overview of geographical cash access coverage in the UK at the end of the third quarter (July to September) of 2021. This is the third in a series of regular updates to monitor coverage over time.

1. Introduction

On a quarterly basis, with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), we gather and update data on access to cash. This captures the locations of cash access points and other relevant information like. We supplement this information with annual data on cashback locations.

This analysis provides insights on the proportion of the population that lives within a range of distances of various cash access points. We measure distances as the crow flies (see note 1), consistent with the approaches adopted by LINK and the Post Office. Our latest analysis uses mid-2020 population estimates, updated from mid-2019 estimates (see note 2).

We estimate that for access to any bank, building society, Post Office branch, or any ATM (either free or pay-to-use):

  • 99.7% of the UK population are currently within 2km of a cash access point
  • 95.7% of the UK population are currently within 5km of a cash access point

For free-to-use access points only:

  • 95.5% of the UK population are currently within 2km of a cash access point
  • 99.7% of the UK population are currently within 5km of a cash access point

These coverage estimates are unchanged from 2021 Q2. However, the types of available access points have changed between Q2 and Q3:

  • The number of brick-and-mortar branches of the larger banks and building societies providing personal current accounts (PCA) continued to fall, as 224 (4%) ceased to do this. Coverage by these branches decreased from 60.1% to 59.6% of the UK population at 2km and from 87.5% to 87.4% at 5km.
  • There was an increase in the availability of Post Office branches, which offset the reduction in branch coverage.
  • The number of free-to-use ATMs declined, but the impact on coverage appears negligible.

Between Q1 and Q2, the number of brick-and-mortar branches of the larger banks and building societies providing personal current accounts (PCA)by 0.5 and 0.1 percentage points at 2km and 5km respectively.

Those in rural areas travel further to access services compared to the urban population.  99.7% of people living in urban areas in the UK currently have access to a free source of cash within 2km. This falls to 77.4% for the UK rural population, a small improvement from Q2. 98.3% of the UK rural population are within 5km of a free source of cash. Overall, we estimate that 99% of the UK rural population have access to a free source of cash within 5.7km.

Including cashback as a source of cash alongside all other access points, we estimate that, either with or without pay-to-use ATMs:

  • 99% of the UK population are currently within 2km of a source of cash
  • 99.9% of the UK population are currently within 5km of a source of cash

For all sources of cash including cashback, we estimate that just under 100% of the UK’s urban population are within 2km of a cash source and 99.6% are within 1km. We estimate that nearly all (99.9%) the UK’s rural population are within 8km of a cash source, although 0.4% have no known cash source within 5km of where they live and 5.3% have no known source within . These figures are unchanged from 2021 Q2.

Our analysis of other access characteristics finds that:

  • Temporary closures in Q3 were slightly more common than in Q2. The percentage of branches with temporary closures was broadly similar, but closures lasted slightly longer. Of Typeand building society branches that had temporary closures of 1 day or more, a typical (median) branch was closed for 2 and 3 days respectively.
  • Q3 2021 saw a small increase in opening hours, with average opening hours for branches (bank and building society brick-and-mortar) increasing slightly to 35 hours per week (from 34 hours in Q2). However, a
  • Of brick-and-mortar bank and building society branches, 62% of larger PCA providers and 54% of other branches reported that they are wheelchair accessible, have step-free access and have a hearing/induction loop, similar to Q2. 78% of Post Office branches (excluding mobile and outreach branches) have both wheelchair access and a hearing/induction loop, an increase of 3 percentage points from Q2.

2. Coverage

The data comprises 72,377 known UK cash access points and 429,482 cashback locations. Table 1 shows numbers by region for 8 types of access points (see notes 3, 4, and ):

  • Types A and B are brick-and-mortar bank and building society branches provided by (A) larger PCA providers and (B) all other banks and building societies, respectively.
    Type B branches may offer more limited deposit and withdrawal services compared to Type A branches, for example, if a building society it specialises in mortgages, or offering savings accounts.
  • Mobile bank branches () are a separate type (D).
  • Post Office branches are subdivided into mobile / outreach branches (type E) and all other Post Office branches (type C). The outreach branches are brick-and-mortar but are more similar to mobile branches in that they are typically open for a small number of hours and/or on selected days of the week. For example, these include limited time to serve access points in community buildings in rural locations. For this reason, we group the mobile and outreach branches together.
  • ATMs are subdivided into free-to-use (type F) and pay-to-use (type G).
  • Cashback locations (type H) are all the unique locations where a cashback transaction is known to have taken place in 2020.

Table 1: Number of cash access points by type and geographical area

We have analysed coverage for 14 groups of cash access points which we define in Table 2. The groups are constructed by combining the cash access point types and cashback locations.

  • Group 1 includes type A (larger banks and building societies providing PCA) access points only.
  • Group 2 adds the non-mobile/outreach Post Office network.
  • Group 3 includes all brick-and-mortar (except type B) and mobile/outreach bank, building society, and Post Office branches, thus representing all known locations where customers can access banking services beyond cash withdrawals or deposits.
  • Groups 4 and 5 include the same cash access point types as Group 3, as well as all free-to-use ATMs and all ATMs respectively.
  • Group 6 includes type B branches and contains all free-to-use access points.
  • Group 7 includes all 72,377 known cash access points.
  • Groups 8 and 9 focus on access to ATMs, for free-to-use and all ATMs respectively.
  • Groups 10, 11, and 12 combine free-to-use access points, all access points and all ATMs respectively with cashback locations.
  • Groups 13 and 14 focus on access to the Post Office network distinguishi