Assessing Access to Cash in the UK
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has published its latest overview of geographical cash access coverage across the UK, concluding that 95.7 percent of the population live within two kilometres of a facility offering cash withdrawals.
Starting in 2021, the Financial Conduct Authority—an independent organisation that regulates around 51,000 financial services firms and markets across the UK—has conducted quarterly reviews of cash access points. It also assesses related factors such as temporary closures, opening hours and accessibility of facilities.
The latest data suggests some progress has been made, revealing that—including banks, building societies, Post Office branches offering cash services, and free ATMs—95.7 percent of the population are now within two kilometres of a free cash access point, rising to 99.7 percent within five kilometres. This data, covering July–September 2021, compares with 95.4 percent having access within two kilometres in January–March 2021, with the five-kilometre percentage unchanged.
Cash access is markedly lower in Scotland, being limited to larger cities, with Wales also seeing patchier coverage than England, where access is largely good, but lower in rural areas of the south-west and across the north.
Accessibility will also be an issue for some people looking to withdraw cash. Post Office branches offer cash services especially valuable to more remote communities, but the report shows 11 percent are not wheelchair accessible and around 15 percent lack hearing/induction loops. Larger banks and building societies are only missing these accessibility features in around five and three percent of cases respectively, whereas smaller banks are less accessible, with over 23 percent not wheelchair accessible and around 35 percent not having hearing/induction loops available.
While ATMs are typically available 24 hours a day, in-branch cash withdrawals and deposits are limited by opening hours. The report shows 86 percent of larger facilities and 58 percent of smaller ones were operating on reduced hours towards the end of 2021 compared with their normal opening hours as of February 2020, before the first lockdown.
Overall, the figures suggest access to cash is stable, but remains limited in rural areas. Access to deposits and wider banking facilities in particular may also be limited for many by short opening hours and a lack of full accessibility provisions.