Coronavirus: Use of ATMs falls by 60% during lockdown, data shows

Around £1bn still being withdrawn every week, says cash machine network Link

Samuel Lovett
Tuesday 28 April 2020 12:00 BST
Johnson compares coronavirus to 'unexpected and invisible mugger' as he says says too soon to ease lockdown

The use of ATMs has fallen by about 60 per cent compared to a year ago, according to new data, as the coronavirus lockdown continues to reshape Britons’ daily habits.

Link, the biggest operator of free-to-use ATMs in the UK, has said that transaction volumes have, on average, plunged over the past the month.

However, when people do use a cash machine, they are typically withdrawing more money.

The average cash machine withdrawal is now about £80, up from £65 before the lockdown.

Link said some £1bn is still being withdrawn from its ATMs every week, through 11 million cash withdrawals.

Its consumer research also found that one in seven (14 per cent) people said they were keeping more cash at home in case of emergencies.

But three-quarters were using less cash, with more than half (58 per cent) using cash a lot less. However, 23 per cent said they were using the same amount of cash or more.

More than half (54 per cent) of people said they were now avoiding using cash and using alternative payment methods.

More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of people thought the coronavirus crisis would affect their future use of cash over the next six months; for example, because they will be using contactless cards more, or shopping online.

One in 10 said they had wanted to pay in cash but it had not been accepted.

Link’s chief executive, John Howells, said: “The fact people are using less cash shouldn’t come as a surprise because, with cafes, pubs, restaurants and some shops closed, people are travelling less and there are far fewer opportunities to spend in the first place.

“However, Link ATMs are still issuing around £1bn per week to 11 million people. Even if this crisis does lead to less cash use in the longer term, people should be reassured that Link and its members will continue to ensure good access to all who still rely on it.”

Last week, it was claimed there were now “months not years” left to rescue the UK’s creaking cash infrastructure, after research revealed coronavirus could change spending habits for good.

The Access to Cash Review, commissioned and paid for by Link, warned that society’s most vulnerable were at risk.

Natalie Ceeney, a former chief executive at HM Courts and Tribunals Service and HSBC boss, who authored the review, said: “We haven’t got years now, we’ve got months. The most vulnerable people rely on cash and they are really struggling right now. They are stuck at home and unable to get cash. When the world goes back to some semblance of normality they are still going to need cash.”

The industry review found that eight million people would struggle without cash and that as many as two million rely on it for day-to-day spending. Although many people will move to digital payment services during the pandemic, millions will still want the ability to pay with cash, it said.

Link said coronavirus was speeding up the effects of problems with Britain's cash economy.

Additional reporting by PA

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