Access to Cash Coverage: PSR and FCA update on future of access to cash - summer 2021

The PSR and FCA have today (23 July 2021) published an updated assessment of the UK’s access to cash infrastructure, taking into account the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, alongside new FCA research on consumers who rely on cash. These publications provide a broad overview of the access to cash evidence base, and will inform our ongoing work, including supervision of the FCA’s Guidance on branch and ATM closures or conversions, legislative work with the Government, and our engagement with the industry on cash access issues.

Access to Cash Coverage: produced jointly by the PSR and FCA, this provides an overview of the UK’s geographical cash access coverage, including bank, building society, Post Office branches and ATMs, at the end of the first quarter of 2021. It is the first in a series of planned regular updates that will monitor coverage over time.

External consumer research: Building on the FCA’s Financial Lives 2020 survey, which found that 10% of adults self-identified as reliant on cash, the FCA commissioned this qualitative research to understand cash access needs for those consumers and gather insight into their demographic and vulnerability characteristics. 

Below we provide some key insights from the joint Access to Cash Coverage publication. This is focused on access to cash coverage[1], free access to cash coverage[2] and ATM coverage[3]. More detail on this and other statistics such as bank and building society branch coverage, accessibility and opening times can be found in the full publication on the FCA website.

Summary of Key Insights

This is an overview of geographical cash access coverage in the UK at the end of the first quarter of 2021. This is the first in a series of regular updates that will monitor coverage over time.

The maps produced illustrate that, across the UK, 88.7% of the population currently has access to cash within a 1km radius of where they live. When considering only free access to cash, the analysis shows that 87.4% of the UK population has free access to cash within 1km of where they live.  

Comparisons between rural and urban areas across the UK show that, of those living in urban areas, 96.6% of the population have access to cash within 1km, whilst 54.7% of those living in rural areas have access to cash within 1km.

Coverage of free and paid-for access to cash

Based on access via all channels – i.e. free or pay-to-use ATMs, bank, building society, and Post Office Branches – compared to where they live, we estimate:

  • 88.7% of the UK population is currently within 1km of access to cash
  • 95.6% of the UK population is currently within 2km of access to cash
  • 99.7% of the UK population is currently within 5km of access to cash

Areas of the UK with access to cash within [1, 2, 5, 8, and 16 km]

In urban areas, we estimate:

  • 96.6% of the UK population is currently within 1km of access to cash
  • 99.8% of the UK population is currently within 2km of access to cash
  • 100% of the UK population is currently within 5km of access to cash

In rural areas, we estimate:

  • 54.7% of the UK population is currently within 1km of access to cash
  • 77.8% of the UK population is currently within 2km of access to cash
  • 98.3% of the UK population is currently within 5km of access to cash

Coverage of free access to cash

Based on access via only free-to-use channels – i.e. free ATMs, bank, building society, and Post Office Branches – compared to where they live, we estimate:

  • 87.4% of the UK population is currently within 1km of free access to cash
  • 95.4% of the UK population is currently within 2km of free access to cash
  • 99.7% of the UK population is currently within 5km of free access to cash

Areas of the UK with free access to cash within [1, 2, 5, 8, and 16 km]

In urban areas we estimate:

  • 95.4% of the UK population is currently within 1km of free access to cash
  • 99.7% of the UK population is currently within 2km of free access to cash
  • 100% of the UK population is currently within 5km of free access to cash

In rural areas we estimate:

  • 53% of the UK population is currently within 1km of free access to cash
  • 76.6% of the UK population is currently within 2km of free access to cash
  • 98.2% of the UK population is currently within 5km of free access to cash

ATM Coverage

Free-to use ATM Coverage

Based on access via free ATMs we estimate:

  • 82.7% of the UK population is currently within 1km of a free-to-use ATM
  • 91.3% of the UK population is currently within 2km of a free-to-use ATM
  • 97.7% of the UK population is currently within 5km of a free-to-use ATM

Areas of the UK that have access to a free to use ATM within [1, 2, 5, 8, and 16 km]

In urban areas we estimate:

  • 93.1% of the UK population is currently within 1km of a free-to-use ATM
  • 99.4% of the UK population is currently within 2km of a free-to-use ATM
  • 100% of the UK population is currently within 5km of a free-to-use ATM

In rural areas we estimate:

  • 37.7% of the UK population is currently within 1km of a free-to-use ATM
  • 56.6% of the UK population is currently within 2km of a free-to-use ATM
  • 87.7% of the UK population is currently within 5km of a free-to-use ATM

Free and Pay-to-use ATM Coverage

Based on access via both free and pay-to-use ATMs we estimate:

  • 85.6% of the UK population is currently within 1km of an ATM
  • 92.5% of the UK population is currently within 2km of an ATM
  • 98.3% of the UK population is currently within 5km of an ATM

Areas of the UK that have access to an ATM within [1, 2, 5, 8, and 16 km]

In urban areas we estimate:

  • 95.6% of the UK population is currently within 1km of an ATM
  • 99.6% of the UK population is currently within 2km of an ATM
  • 100% of the UK population is currently within 5km of an ATM

In rural areas we estimate:

  • 42.6% of the UK population is currently within 1km of an ATM
  • 61.9% of the UK population is currently within 2km of an ATM
  • 90.8% of the UK population is currently within 5km of an ATM

Next Steps

The PSR and FCA have been actively monitoring access to cash in the UK for some time and both regulators have  set out our expectations of firms and industry in May 2021. The PSR’s priority remains the ATM network, to ensure the UK’s cash system remains sustainable and resilient and continues to provide access to those who need it.

In July we published the outcome of our second annual review of Specific Direction 8 (SD8) and decided it should remain in place until it expires in January 2022. Many of the reasons that support keeping SD8 in place until January 2022 are likely to apply beyond January 2022. We are therefore currently minded to issue a new Direction to replace SD8 when it expires. We will assess the evidence in detail over the summer.

We continue to engage closely with and monitor progress of the industry’s Access to Cash Action Group and will work with the Government as it develops its legislation. We welcome the Government’s proposals to ensure that the FCA has the right responsibilities and powers to oversee the cash system. We and the Bank of England will continue with our existing roles overseeing LINK to support the delivery of cash access for consumer and SMEs.

Notes for Maps

  1. While every effort has been made to ensure the dataset is complete and up to date, some omissions or other discrepancies may remain. 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, only those classified by the Post Office as open at the time the data was collected are included.
  2. The definitions used for rural-urban classification differ between England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. In the case of Northern Ireland, for simplicity, the 165 out of 4,537 small areas originally assigned to a mixed rural/urban category have been reallocated to either rural or urban category based on their band, with bands A-E allocated as urban and F-H as rural; see NISRA Urban-Rural Classification 2015for more details.
  3. Relative to analogous travel distance, the approach based on straight line distances is likely to overestimate coverage (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.
  4. All population estimates are based on 2011 census output area (OA) geographies (small areas in Northern Ireland), mid-2019 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-2019 population estimates for Data Zones. Population estimates for arbitrary areas are computed 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.
  5. While every effort has been made 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, and the LINK Scheme Ltd.

 

[1] Brick-and-mortar and mobile bank and building society branches, free and charging ATMs, and the Post Office network

[2] Brick-and-mortar and mobile bank and building society branches, free ATMs, and the Post Office network

[3] free and charging ATMs