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Coverage of access to cash across the UK

A summary of joint work between the PSR and FCA

 

On 16 June, the PSR and FCA published a joint statement setting out their approach to access to cash. This publication builds on that statement by describing in more detail the work we are conducting to map access to cash coverage, and how this will feed into our longer-term activities on access to cash. 

The PSR and FCA have produced maps to illustrate the spread of cash access across the UK, using data provided by industry. On average, across UK local authorities, 93% of the population currently has access to cash within a 1 mile radius. Looking at coverage of free cash access, on average 88% of people have access within 1 mile. 

While this illustrates widespread coverage of cash access nationally there are localised cash access issues for people who need it. We will continue to work with industry and other authorities to address these.  

It’s important that everyone has a good choice of how to make payments, in ways that work for them. For many people, cash continues to be a vital way of making payments. While there has been an increase in the use of digital payment methods in recent years and because of coronavirus, the longer-term impact of this on cash use is not clear and it’s likely some consumers will continue to need to access cash for some time. 

Our maps immediately below show the coverage of access to cash across the UK, based on locations of ATMs, bank and building society branches and Post Offices as of the start of March 2020 relative to where people live1.  

Coverage of free and charging access to cash

Based on access via free or charging ATMs, bank branches and Post Offices, on average across UK local authorities2:

  • 93% of the population is currently within 1 mile of access to cash
  • 99% of the population is within 3 miles of access to cash

The coverage does not include cashback, which provides an additional source of cash for people.

% of population with access to cash

Note: Locations of cash access points including – free and pay-to-use ATMs, bank and building society branches and Post Offices – as at start of March 2020 across the 382 UK local authorities. Analysis carried out at the census output area level (where people reside), aggregated up to the local authority level. Distance measured in a straight line from centre of census output area to cash access points (as the crow flies); actual distance/travel time might be different.

Coverage of free access to cash

The coverage is different when looking at access to free ATMs, bank branches and Post Offices. On average across UK local authorities:

  • 88% of the population is currently within 1 mile of free access to cash 
  • 97% of the population is within 3 miles of free access to cash 

% of population with free access to cash

Note: Locations of cash access points including – free ATMs, bank and building society branches and Post Offices – as at start of March 2020 across the 382 UK local authorities. Analysis carried out at the census output area level (where people reside), aggregated up to the local authority level. Distance measured in a straight line from centre of census output area to cash access points (as the crow flies); actual distance/travel time might be different.

What we’re doing to help

Despite relatively good coverage across the UK on aggregate, our analysis shows that there are still a significant number of people who do not have free cash access within 1 mile of where they live. While many people will have very different cash access needs, this suggests there may still be localised areas where people’s cash access needs are not being met. This could be due to temporary or permanent closures of ATMs and bank branches, or where there was already a lack of free-to-use ATMs and alternative cash sources. 

We are also aware that the characteristics of some consumers may mean that access is still restricted even where coverage is considered good within a certain radius, for example if they are vulnerable, or because of restrictions on public transport. 

This is why supporting access to cash for those that need it continues to be a priority for the PSR and FCA, and we will continue to work together to:

  • Maintain widespread access to free ATMs in the short term. The PSR retained Special Direction 8 which holds LINK to its commitment to maintain the broad geographic spread of free-to-use ATMs. Some of LINK’s policies include industry funding premiums for low volume Protected ATMs, or LINK replacing an ATM through the Direct Commissioning process. 
  • Monitor the impact of bank branch closures on consumers’ ability to access cash.  The FCA will engage closely with banks on how they will consider the impact on consumers and businesses where they need to take decisions on bank branch closures.
  • Drive industry to continue to develop effective local engagement schemes to identify local areas where cash needs might be underserved and how these might best be addressed.
  • Build on our mapping work carried out during the height of the COVID-19 crisis and on coverage prior to the crisis, through work we have launched with University of Bristol, supported by industry, to develop a comprehensive picture of cash access infrastructure across the UK in relation to social economic factors that reflect consumer needs. 
  • We will also continue to gather data, such as through the FCA’s consumer research, and to engage with industry and consumer organisations to gain insights on consumer cash needs, particularly of specific groups, such as the vulnerable or elderly. 
  • Explore with industry how it can develop a sustainable and appropriate solution that allows the industry to meet the cash needs of consumers and businesses in the longer term through a range of channels.
  • Support the government on the development of its legislation to protect access to cash for those who need it.  

 

1) This is the latest available data prior to the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Access to cash is a changing picture, and the provision of cash access services in some locations may have changed slightly since March 2020. While we have considered access to cash relative to where people live, we recognise that people also access cash in areas where they spend it or as part of their routine journeys. 

2) The 1 mile and 3 mile distances are intended to provide approximate indication of access to cash. They do not reflect our view of what is a reasonable or appropriate distance to travel to access cash