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).