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.
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.
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.
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 distinguishing between non-mobile/outreach branches and all branches.
Due to substitutability, as outlined above, type B branches are only included in groups 6, 7, 10, and 11.
Estimated percentages of the UK population living within a given distance from a cash access point are shown in Table 3 (see notes 6, 7, and 8). The estimates are given for the UK regions separately, as well as for England and the UK overall. Estimates for rural and urban areas are also given (see note 9).
The distances considered are 1, 2, 5, 8, and 16 km (approximately 0.6, 1.2, 3, 5, and 10 miles, respectively).
Figure 1 shows the coverage areas underlying the population estimates in Table 3. As in Table 3, the cash access points considered are those in groups 1-14. In each case the areas shown are those without access to a source of cash within 1, 2, 5, 8, or 16 km. The areas shown in white have a cash access point within 1 km or nearer. The interactive tooltips show percentages of the Local Authority District population that have access to a source of cash within the above range of distances.
Figure 1: Access to cash coverage in the UK in 2021 Q3
3. Other insights
3.1. Temporary closures
About 14% of type A (larger PCA providers) and 9% of type B (other) bank and building society branches were temporarily closed for at least 1 day during the third quarter of 2021 due to coronavirus (Covid-19) and other reasons. Of branches which had temporary closures of at least 1 day, a typical (median) branch of type A or B was closed for 3 and 2 days respectively, with the average number of temporary closure days across type A and B branches being 7.
Temporary closures of mobile branches (type D) have been significantly more common than for physical branches. However, there has been a large decline in the level and length of temporary closures since Q2. During Q3 about 60% of mobile branches were temporarily closed. The average and median number of temporary closure days were 2 and 3 respectively for those branches that have been closed for 1 day or more.
We do not have equivalent information for Post Office branches.
3.2. Opening hours
While external and stand-alone ATMs are always accessible, in-branch cash withdrawals and deposits and other banking services are only available during branch opening hours.
At the end of the third quarter of 2021, 86% of type A and 58% of type B bank and building society branches were operating on reduced hours compared to the normal opening hours (in February 2020) before the first lockdown.
Figure 2 shows the percentages of branches open at a given time between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday (see note 10), by branch types defined in Table 1. This illustrates a substantial improvement in opening hours since March 2021. For example, around 92% (87% in Q2) of type A (larger PCA providers) branches remain open after 2pm Monday to Friday, and over 74% (70% in Q1) after 3pm. On average, type A and B branches are open 35 hours per week There were only slight changes in opening hours of Post Office branches from Q2 to Q3.
Figure 2: Percentages of branches open at a given time by branch type
For some consumers, being able to use branch services depends on accessibility features.
Table 4 shows percentages of branches which are wheelchair accessible, have step-free access and/or have a hearing/induction loop available for the 3 types of bank and building society branches (see note 11) as well as Post Office branches. The step-free access characteristic is not applicable to mobile branches (see note 12).
Of the brick-and-mortar bank and building society branches, 62% of type A (larger PCA providers) and 54% of type B (other) branches have all 3 characteristics. Excluding the branches for which some values are unreported, these percentages become 87% and 75% respectively. 78% of Post Office (excluding mobile and outreach) branches have both wheelchair and a hearing/induction loop. This increases to 100% if we exclude branches for which some values are unreported. We do not have information on step-free accessibility for Post Office branches.
- Relative to analogous travel distance, the approach based on straight line distances is likely to overestimate coverage and underestimate the areas with no coverage. The effect is likely to be more important for longer, non-walkable distances. All computations are performed in the British National Grid (OSGB 1936) projection.
- Changes in the population estimates could cause changes in our estimates of coverage independently of any changes in access point locations. For example, if population numbers had increased in geographical areas with greater access point coverage and reduced in geographical areas with lower access point coverage this would increase our estimates of total access coverage, all else being equal.
- The counts in Table 1 are for all known access points. The number of unique locations offering access will be smaller because, for example, a typical branch will have one or more internal and/or one or more external ATMs, and these are counted separately. This does not apply to cashback vendor locations as only unique locations are counted (see also note 4). There are no mobile bank branches or mobile/ outreach Post Office branches in London.
- Cashback locations are the unique locations of vendors which are known to have offered cashback at some point in 2020 to customers using either a Mastercard or a Visa card. There could be other merchants offering cashback not included in this dataset, either because no transaction involving cashback took place or because such transactions did not involve Visa or Mastercard.
- While we have made every effort to ensure the dataset is complete and up to date, there may still be some omissions or other discrepancies. This dataset does not include ATMs that were temporarily closed due to Covid-19 restrictions at the time the data was collected. Data on some smaller banking companies may be missing, and not all recent branch closures, openings or other changes may have been reflected. Of the Post Office branches, we included only those classified by the Post Office as active at the time the data was collected.
- All population estimates are based on 2011 census output area (OA) geographies (small areas in Northern Ireland), mid-2020 estimates of the usual resident population for OAs in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, and for Data Zones in Scotland. Population estimates for OAs in Scotland are obtained by proportionally adjusting the 2011 census estimates using the aggregate mid-2020 population estimates for Data Zones. We compute the population estimates for arbitrary areas based on the assumption that population density is uniform over each OA. For ease of reference, columns ‘Population, 000’s’ in Table 3 reproduce these population estimates (in thousands) for all included areas.
- While we have made every effort to get precise locations of all access points, some locations are precise to their respective postcode centroids only. In most cases the locations used in this analysis are those supplied by banks, building societies, the Post Office, the LINK Scheme Ltd, Visa, and Mastercard.
- All estimates in Table 3 are reported to 1 decimal place precision. For some groups the estimates are very similar or nearly identical, for example those for groups 7 (all cash access points) and 5 (all except type B). This is because many cash access points, particularly bank and building society branches, tend to cluster around settlement centres.
- The definitions used for rural-urban classification differ between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In the case of Northern Ireland, for simplicity, we have reallocated the 165 out of 4,537 small areas originally assigned to a mixed rural/urban category to either rural or urban category based on their band. We have allocated bands A-E as urban and F-H as rural; see NISRA Urban-Rural Classification 2015 for more details.
- Some Post Office branches are also open before 7am and/or after 7pm, and some are also open on Sundays – these are not shown in Figure 2. Mobile stops and outreach branches are typically open for a small number of hours on selected days of the week, so the overall proportions of these branches open at a given time are generally low.
- Proportions given in the ‘excluding unreported’ rows in Table 4 are unbiased estimates of the respective true proportions where there is no connection between the non-reporting and the value of the characteristic in question. Proportions given in the ‘all data’ rows represent worst-case scenario bounds. For example, if all the 19% of non-mobile/outreach (type C) Post Office branches for which wheelchair accessibility is unreported are, in fact, wheelchair accessible, the overall proportions will be 100% and 0%, whereas if none of them are wheelchair accessible, the overall proportions will be 81% and 19% for yes and no respectively.
Symbols ‘x’ and ‘–’ in Table 4 denote ‘not applicable’ and ‘none’ (ie, exactly zero) respectively.
- Some changes in accessibility across Type A banks and building societies between Q2 and Q3 are partially driven by the improved data quality of some submissions.
In addition to the data collected from banks, building societies, and the Post Office, the analysis uses other open data and data licensed under the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement.
- ATM data © LINK Scheme Ltd, LINK Network Members, and licensors copyright and database right 2021.
- Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right 2021.
- Contains NRS data © Crown copyright and database right 2021.
- Contains National Statistics data © Crown copyright and database rights 2021.
- Contains Royal Mail data © Royal Mail copyright and database right 2021.
- Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.3.0.
- Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
- This product contains data created and maintained by Scottish Local Government.