Access to cash coverage in the UK 2023 Q1

This is an overview of geographical cash access coverage in the UK at the end of the first quarter (January to March) of 2023. This monitoring forms part of the FCA’s work on access to cash.

1. Introduction

On a quarterly basis, with the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), we gather and update data on access to cash. This captures the locations of cash access points and other relevant information like temporary closures, opening hours, and accessibility. This data covers brick-and-mortar, mobile bank, and building society branches, automated teller machines (ATMs), and the Post Office network. 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, relative to residential addresses (see note 2).

Notes 1 and 2

1. 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.

2. Our current approach measures straight line distances from residential addresses to their nearest access point by type. To determine aggregate coverage percentages we estimate the total number of residential properties within a set distance of an access point at a certain geographical level eg Output Area, Local Authority District, Country etc. Due to a change in methodology effective from the 2022 Q1 analysis it is not possible to directly compare coverage analysis for this or future quarters with analysis for 2021. Based on testing between methodologies undertaken using 2021 Q4 data we do not believe conclusions based on key headline figures are significantly affected by the choice of methodology.

We estimate that for access to larger banks and building societies providing Personal Current Accounts (PCA) and Post Office: all branches, including mobile bank branches:

  • 97.4% of the UK urban population are currently within 1 mile of a free-to-use cash access point offering deposits
  • 98.3% of the UK rural population are currently within 3 miles of a free-to-use cash access point offering deposits

 

We estimate that for access to any bank, building society, Post Office branch, or any free ATM:

  • 99.3% of the UK urban population are currently within 1 mile of a free-to-use cash access point offering withdrawals
  • 98.7% of the UK rural population are currently within 3 miles of a free-to-use cash access point offering withdrawals

 

For the UK as a whole, estimates of coverage at 1 mile and 3 miles have seen little clear change since 2022 Q4.  

  • The number of brick-and-mortar branches of the larger bank and building societies providing cash services fell by 90 branches, a decrease of 2%.
  • The number of post offices was stable.

 

Our analysis of other access characteristics finds that during this period:

  • There was a small increase (1.2%) in the number of larger banks and building societies (type A) opening on Saturdays between 9am and 12pm.
  • There was a small decrease (0.5-0.7%) in the number of larger banks and building societies (type A) opening on weekdays between 10am and 2pm, but an increase (0.5-1.1%) opening later in the afternoon (3-5pm).
  • Post Offices showed a trend of branches opening progressively later in the afternoons, with an increase of 1.2% of branches open at 7pm. There was also a small increase (0.7%) open between 8am and 9am, Monday to Saturday.
  • Temporary closures of type A (brick-and-mortar branches of a larger PCA provider) showed a decrease of 50% from 2022 Q4 [see note 11]. The number of branches closed for one day or more fell from 16.4% in 2022Q4 to 7.4% in 2023 Q1. We cannot get reliable results for type B (smaller branches) due to a high proportion of branches not returning data.

 

2. Coverage

The data comprises 67,354 known UK cash access points and 487,224 cashback locations. Table 1 shows numbers by region for 8 types of access point (see notes 3, 4, and 5):

  • 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, a building society that specialises in mortgages or savings accounts.
  • Mobile bank branches (measured by stops) 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 being typically open for a small number of hours 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 took place in 2022.

Table 1: Number of cash access points by type and region

Country / Region England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales UK Total
Type Description East Midlands East of England London North East North West South East South West West Midlands Yorkshire and The Humber
A Larger banks and building societies providing PCA (brick-and-mortar branches) 274 419 605 169 448 634 390 375 307 139 461 254 4,475
B All other banks and building societies (brick-and-mortar branches)  99 69 53 49 94 68 76 126 100 31 36 105 906
C Post Office branches excluding mobile/ outreach  733 996 716 399 973 1,253 985 803 809 464 1,051 686 9,868
D Mobile bank branches  24 22   5 27 59 95 10 10 13 416 96 777
E Mobile/ outreach Post Office branches 140 191   95 152 144 268 114 150 30 265 266 1,815
F Free-to-use ATMs  2,712 3,229 5,179 1,720 4,288 4,745 2,944 3,395 3,334 1,417 3,903 1,860 38,726
G Pay-to-use ATMs  648 850 1,668 529 1,465 1,091 683 1,176 781 325 978 593 10,787
H Cashback locations 33,848 43,562 67,651 17,362 53,501 69,149 46,559 36,783 39,137 13,953 42,551 23,168 487,224
All sources excluding cashback 4,630 5,776 8,221 2,966 7,447 7,994 5,441 5,999 5,491 2,419 7,110 3,860 67,354
All sources including cashback 38,478 49,338 75,872 20,328 60,948 77,143 52,000 42,782 44,628 16,372 49,661 27,028 554,578

Table 1: Number of cash access points by type and region (.xlsx)

Notes 3, 4 and 5

3. 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.

4. Cashback locations are the unique locations of vendors which are known to have offered cashback at some point in 2022 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.

5. 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 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. Where a bank or building society has not provided data, we have used submissions from previous quarters. Of the Post Office branches, we included only those classified by the Post Office as active at the time the data was collected.

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, 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 67,354 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.

Table 2: Groupings of cash access points

Group Description  Cash access point types included Number of entities
A B C D E F G H
1 Larger banks and building societies providing PCA: brick-and-mortar branches                4,475
2 Larger banks and building societies providing PCA and Post Office: brick-and-mortar branches             14,343
3 Larger banks and building societies providing PCA, and Post Office: all branches, including mobile         16,935
4 Post Office, larger banks and building societies providing PCA (all branches), and free-to-use ATMs       55,661
5 Post Office, larger banks and building societies providing PCA (all branches), and all ATMs     66,448
6 All free-to-use cash access points (excluding cashback)     56,567
7 All cash access points (excluding cashback)   67,354
8 Free-to-use ATMs               38,726
9 All ATMs             49,513
10 All free-to-use cash access points and cashback locations   x 543,791
11 All cash access points and cashback locations x 554,578
12 All ATMs and cashback locations           x 536,737
13 Post Office branches excluding outreach and mobile               9,868
14 All Post Office branches             11,683

Table 2: Groupings of cash access points (.xlsx)

On this web page we provide highlights of coverage in Table 3. We present data for groups 3 and 6 as proxies for cash deposit and free cash withdrawal access for consumers. We provide these figures for Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole split by overall, rural and urban at distances of 1 mile and 3 miles.

 

Table 3: Percentages of the UK population that have access to a source of cash within a given distance as of 2022 Q4 (groups 3 and 6) 

(Select a tab to view the respective group table)

Group 3: Larger banks and building societies providing PCA and Post Office: all branches, including mobile
Region Rural / Urban Population, 000's        
2km 5km 1mi 3mi
UK Overall 67,071.9 95.0 99.7 92.7 99.6
Rural 12,046.4 77.1 98.6 70.9 98.3
Urban 55,025.4 99.0 99.9 97.4 99.9
GB Overall 65,176.3 95.4 99.7 93.0 99.7
Rural 11,337.1 78.3 98.7 72.1 98.5
Urban 53,839.2 99.0 99.9 97.5 99.9
NI Overall 1,895.5 84.0 98.8 79.8 98.5
Rural 709.3 59.1 96.7 51.8 96.0
Urban 1,186.2 98.8 100.0 96.5 100.0
Group 6: All free-to-use cash access points (excluding cashback)
Region Rural / Urban Population, 000's        
2km 5km 1mi 3mi
UK Overall 67,071.9 96.3 99.8 95.1 99.7
Rural 12,046.4 81.4 98.9 75.8 98.7
Urban 55,025.4 99.6 100.0 99.3 99.9
GB Overall 65,176.3 96.6 99.8 95.4 99.7
Rural 11,337.1 82.4 99.0 77.0 98.8
Urban 53,839.2 99.6 100.0 99.3 99.9
NI Overall 1,895.5 86.5 99.2 83.3 99.1
Rural 709.3 64.4 98.0 56.7 97.6
Urban 1,186.2 99.7 100.0 99.2 100.0

Estimated percentages of the UK population living within a given distance from a cash access point for all groups 1-14 can be downloaded via the link below (see notes 6, 7, and 8).

We give the estimates for the UK regions and devolved nations 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, 3, 5, and 10 miles (approximately 1.6, 3.2, 4.8, and 16 km, respectively).

UK population living within a given distance from a cash access point for all groups 1-14

Notes 6, 7, 8 and 9

6. 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. We obtained population estimates for OAs in Scotland by proportionally adjusting the 2011 census estimates using the aggregate mid-2021 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

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, 3, 5 and 10 miles. 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 2023 Q1

View the maps in Tableau Public

Underlying data for Figure 1 maps (.xlsx)

3. Other insights

3.1. Temporary closures

We cannot give precise figures for temporary closures because a high proportion of branches did not provide this information. But there has been a decrease in the overall number of days closed across type A (large PCA providers) since 2022 Q4. Of type A branches that did provide this information (86%) there were 7.4% that were temporarily closed for at least one day, which is a large decrease on 2022 Q4 (16.4%).

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.

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.

Figure 2: Percentages of branches open at a given time by branch type
Figure 2: Percentages of branches open at a given time by branch type Figure 2: Percentages of branches open at a given time by branch type (.pdf)

3.3. Accessibility

For some consumers, being able to use branch services depends on accessibility.

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 10). The step-free access characteristic is not applicable to mobile branches (see note 11).

Of the brick-and-mortar bank and building society branches, 61.5% of type A (larger PCA providers) and 54.0% of type B (other) branches have all 3 features. Excluding the branches for which some values are unreported, these percentages become 86.2% and 70.1% respectively.

59.3% of Post Office (excluding mobile and outreach) have both wheelchair access and a hearing/induction loop. We do not have information on step-free accessibility for Post Office branches.

Table 4: Percentages of branches with common accessibility characteristics by branch type

    Wheelchair accessible Has step-free access Has hearing/ induction loop available
Access point type Sample Yes No Unreported Yes No Unreported Yes No Unreported
A: Larger banks and building societies providing PCA (brick-and-mortar branches) All data 94.3 5.7 - 68.5 2.9 28.6 95.5 4.4 -
Excluding unreported 94.3 5.7 x 96.0 4.0 x 95.6 4.4 x
B: All other banks and building societies (brick-and-mortar branches)  All data 78.8 5.6 15.6 69.5 7.5 23.0 65.0 21.0 14.0
Excluding unreported 93.3 6.7 x 90.3 9.7 x 75.6 24.4 x
C.Post Office branches
(excl. mobile/outreach): accessibility
All data 76.2 23.8 - - - 100.0 67.8 32.2 -
Excluding unreported 76.2 23.8 x x x x 67.8 32.2 x
D: Mobile bank branches  All data 55.5 22.7 21.9 - 78.1 21.9 78.1 - 21.9
Excluding unreported 71.0 29.0 x - 100.0 x 100.0 - x
E.Mobile/outreach Post
Office branches: accessibility
All data 1.7 98.3 - - - 100.0 1.5 98.5 -
Excluding unreported 1.7 98.3 x x x x 1.5 98.5 x

Table 4: Percentages of branches with common accessibility characteristics by branch type (.xslx)

Notes 10 and 11

10. 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.

11. 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 21.9% of mobile bank branches (type D) for which step-free access is unreported are, in fact, step-free accessible, the overall proportions will be 21.9% and 78.1%. If none of them is step-free accessible, the overall proportions will be 0% and 100% for yes and no respectively.
Symbols ‘x’ and ‘–’ in Table 4 denote ‘not applicable’ and ‘none’ (ie, exactly zero) respectively. In some cases, the percentages do not sum to exactly 100% because of rounding.

4. Attributions

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 2022.
  • Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right 2022.
  • Contains NRS data © Crown copyright and database right 2022.
  • Contains NISRA data © Crown copyright and database right 2021.
  • Contains National Statistics data © Crown copyright and database rights 2021/2022.
  • Contains Royal Mail data © Royal Mail copyright and database right 2022.
  • 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.