Cash Recovering from COVID
Is cash use in the UK recovering from COVID? ATM network Link has conducted surveys throughout the past two years, and while the picture is mixed, it’s clear that cash remains essential to millions of Brits.
Overall, Link suggests the pandemic accelerated existing trends within the payments landscape. People who were already making cashless payments have continued to do so, whereas those who were more inclined to use cash have returned to it, and there is a sizeable minority whose cash usage persisted throughout the lockdowns and changes occasioned by COVID-19.
While half the people in Link’s surveys report they are still using less cash now than they did before the pandemic, around one in 25 (four percent) are using more. The latest figure for how many people have used cash within the fortnight has also reached 73 percent: the highest since the first lockdown in March 2020.
Back then, at the outset, 77 percent of people did not believe their cash use would change in the coming months. However, after an initial run on cash machines, transactions dropped by an average of around 65 percent across the country. The decrease was highest in large cities and lowest in rural communities.
By mid-summer 2020, some 75 percent of people said they were using less cash since the start of the pandemic, although 53 percent still reported using cash within the previous two weeks. While people staying home was the main factor, the temporary shutdown of many ‘cash heavy’ industries such as leisure and hospitality is also likely to have contributed.
Come the summer of 2021, 72 percent of people reported using less cash overall, meaning the latest figure of 50 percent shows cash usage rising again. Locations seeing the highest cash flow are supermarkets, other retail services such as hair dressers, and most especially pubs. ATM use had risen 20 percent in January 2022 compared with that of one year ago, although variation across the network continues. Town centres are seeing 50–60 percent increases and airport ATMs are as much as 200 percent busier since travel resumed.
A potential growth area for cash is people looking to budget, with Link’s research showing eight percent of people plan to use more cash to help them manage their money amid a rise in living costs.