News & Views - Savantor

Maintaining accessibility to cash

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The use of cash and in particular its accessibility has been very much in the news in the UK recently. It is a topic of discussion for not only the finance industry but also the government and the media. Just this month Barclays undertook a volte-face in its decision to withdraw participation from the Post Office programme enabling cash withdrawal from current accounts, as a result of strong criticism from both government and consumer bodies.

UK Finance has just issued a report about cash and its accessibility (UK Cash & Cash Machines 2019), in which it details the latest key statistics about cash usage and how the market is changing. 

Key findings of the report include:

  • In the UK, cash payments represented 28% of all payments in 2018.
  • There were 11 billion cash payments in the UK in 2018, a fall of 16% from 2017.
  • Cash was the second most frequently used payment method in the UK in 2018 after debit cards, a fact which may surprise some people.
  • There were 7% less cash withdrawals at ATM’s in 2018 than in 2017. The total value withdrawn was down by 8%.
  • The volume of cash machine withdrawals in 2018 was down by 17% from its peak in 2012.
  • There were 63,360 ATMs in the UK at the end of 2018, down from 69,603 at the end of 2017. 
  • During 2018, 1.9 million consumers mainly used cash, 5.4 million rarely used cash. 
  • Cash payments are forecast to decline to 3.8 billion in 2028, accounting for fewer than one in ten (9%) of all payments in the UK.

The report demonstrates that cash usage continues to decline, with cash payments falling by 16% to 10.9 billion payments in 2018. As cash payments decline debit card payments continue to grow, with debit card usage overtaking cash as the most frequently used payment method in 2017 and usage figures increasing again in 2018. The significant growth in contactless card payments over the past few years has helped speed the migration away from cash as a payment method to cards. 

However, cash remained the second most frequently used payment method. Familiarity with it as a payment method and its generally wide acceptance are recognised as helping it to retain its popularity, albeit on the decline.

Although at present we are not on the brink of becoming a cashless society, there is no doubt that we are moving towards a society where cash is used less than it once was. Nevertheless it should be recognised that cash remains an important feature of the payments landscape and access to it and the use of it continues to need to be supported.

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