Link reports UK cash use down but withdrawal amounts increase

The UK’s main ATM cash machine network, LINK, reports that while cash use is on the decline since COVID-19 prompted stay-at-home mandates cash withdrawal amounts are increasing on a weekly basis.

LINK’s data reveals the average weekly withdrawal has jumped from $81 to $103.

“As people are following government guidelines through social distance measures or staying at home, they’re visiting ATMs less frequently, so the likelihood is that they’re taking out more cash on those visits,” Graham Mott, director of strategy at LINK, told Mobile Payments in an email interview.

Cash withdrawals, in terms of transactions, have dipped 60% overall in the UK since the pandemic lockdown compared to last year, but 23% of consumers are using the same or more cash since the beginning of the pandemic.

Over 11 million withdrawals are made weekly worth approximately $1.3 billion, keeping ATM operators working around the clock to ensure machines remain restocked. 

“Are people stockpiling money in fear?” said Mott. “No. While there were reports of higher over the counter withdrawals in the early days as some people stockpiled cash, ATM withdrawals are usually used for day to day spending, which at the moment means food and other essentials.” 

Although much of the retail landscape in the UK closed as of March, LINK has been working with YouGov, a global public opinion and data company, to research consumers shopping and cash use.

The data indicated 14% of consumers are keeping more cash at home in case of emergency, and 54% are avoiding cash use and instead using alternative payment methods. Three-quarters of consumers polled are using less cash, 23% are using the same or more cash and 58% said are using cash a lot less.

When asked if the coronavirus will affect future use of cash, 76% said yes. In terms of payment methods 44% will use contactless/mobile payments [in the future], 34% will shop online, 31% would use ATMs less frequently in the future and 10% have attempted to use cash but it wasn’t accepted.

“The fact people are using less cash shouldn’t come as a surprise because with cafes, pubs, restaurants and some shops closed, people are traveling less and there are far fewer opportunities to spend in the first place,” said John Howells, LINK CEO, in a press release. “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.”