ATM withdrawals rise for the first time in five years as cash use soars

atm withdrawals
atm withdrawals

The total amount withdrawn from ATMs has increased for the first time in five years, debunking the theory that the Covid lockdowns would wipe out the use of cash, new data has revealed.

Banking customers withdrew a total of £83bn from cash machines last year, up from £79bn in 2021 and £81bn in 2020, according to the latest data from Link, the ATM network.

This is the first year on year increase in the total amount withdrawn from cash machines since 2017.

Last week, Nationwide Building Society data showed withdrawals from its machines had increased for the first time in 13 years.

Graham Mott, of Link, said that the increase was thanks to a year free of restrictions. During the nationwide restrictions imposed in 2020 and 2021 withdrawals plummeted.

“I think the main reason ATM use went up last year was because there were no lockdowns. There was another lockdown in early 2021, which naturally meant people visited ATMs less.

He added: “However as the pandemic begins to feel more of a distant memory, it is possible some people are beginning to go back to their pre-Covid habits; shopping more in-store, going into the office more often and visiting shopping centres to look for bargains, all things which mean we may be using more cash in the short term, even if cash is still well down on pre-pandemic levels”.

The research showed that overall cash usage remains down compared with 2019, when £115bn was withdrawn across the UK. Overall transaction levels are down 40pc from that time.

As coins and notes begin to make a post-covid comeback, Link has found that national cash habits have changed. Customers visit ATMs less, but take out more each time, with the average withdrawal up from £68 pre-pandemic to over £80 in 2022, increasing to almost £90 in the month of December. The average withdrawal per person over 16 in the UK was more than £1,500 across the year.

Mr Mott said: “Before the pandemic, people would visit the ATM twice a week and withdraw what they needed knowing they’d visit later that week, whereas now they tend to visit less often but take out a bit more.”

He added that the data showed that “most people haven’t gone completely cashless”, despite many predicting the death of cash as contactless and mobile payments soared in popularity.

“For some people, they’ll use cash for specific things like parking, at the convenience stores or paying friends and family, whereas some consumers will use it for everything, especially if they’re on a budget or fixed income.”

There was also a 5pc increase in the total number of ATM transactions last year, up from one billion in 2021.

Northern Ireland remained the most enthusiastic users of cash in the UK, with customers there taking out an average of £2,266 in 2022. Meanwhile, the cash-lightest region was the South West, where the average annual withdrawal amount was £1,069.

London was the third highest region for average cash withdrawals, with customers taking out an average of £1,744 in 2022, however this remains low when set against 2019 levels, when users withdrew an average of more than £2,500 a year.

The overall number of free-to-use ATMs increased last year, however the overall number of cash machines was down as a result of a decrease in the number of paid-for ATMs. There are now 51,253 cash machines in the UK, compared to 52,547 in 2021.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, was urged last month by MPs to take action to protect free access to cash, after it was found that a quarter of free ATMs had been scrapped in the last four years.

Link runs an ATM community request initiative, where members of the public can contact the organisation if their local area lacks sufficient access to cash. More than 150 free-to-use community cash machines have been installed as part of the scheme so far.

Published by anthonyhayble

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