Following the contact-free payment increase during the coronavirus pandemic, bank notes and coins are continuing to be phased out. But what does this mean in the context of the cost of living crisis?
Our new research has revealed that cash is king when it comes to budgeting during the cost of living crisis, with 42% of people saying using cash helps them to stick to their budget and keep track of their spending..
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Over half of Brits are concerned at the thought of a cashless society, with only 20% saying it wouldn’t bother them.
However, further research shows that UK ATMs have depleted 14% since 2010 and while cash is still important to many, the digitalisation of the economy shows no signs of slowing.
Our research has revealed that 65% of people say they spend more when using their card or contactless payment device rather than cash, which doesn’t bode well for those struggling to budget during the cost of living crisis.
Many of those questioned also expressed that using cash instead of a card when doing simple things such as doing their food shop or eating out in restaurants would help them spend less. Proving that access to cash is vital for those hit hardest during the crisis.
It's concerning that our research also found that despite a real cost of living need for access to cash, more than one in ten of our ATMS in the UK have disappeared in the last 10 years.
Going digital is fine in theory but when sections of society are struggling to make ends meet and find cash easier to budget with then there must be something done to slow the scale at which cash points are disappearing.
Using International Monetary Fund and United Nations data, we can reveal the countries with the highest and lowest ATM depletion across Europe, as well as the countries with the highest number of ATMs per 100,000 people.
Russia’s already high number of ATMs has continued to rise, increasing by 67% from 2010 - 2020.
Austria’s cash usage shows no signs of slowing, with their ATM numbers increasing 59% from 2010-2020.
In third place, Bosnia and Herzegovina have increased their ATM offering by 48% since 2010.
24-hour service: The ATM provides service round the clock, meaning people can visit an ATM any time day or night.
Convenience: The ATM gives convenience to bank customers since they are often located in places such as airports and train stations, meaning customers don’t always have to be near a bank to obtain their cash.
Reduced workload: ATMs reduce the pressure and workload of bank tellers, which in turn reduces queues at bank premises.
Security: Unlike bank tellers, ATMs do not require the person performing the transaction to present a picture identification, they simply need the card and a pin number. This means if a bank card is stolen and the pin number somehow obtained, the criminal can get access to funds. Check out our guide on how to keep your bank details safe here.
Basic transactions: ATMs cannot perform complex transactions e.g moving money between accounts or sending money abroad, making them obsolete to some people.
Privacy: Unlike banks where premises are monitored by security guards, ATMs leave the user open to privacy leaks e.g someone behind them attempting to steal their pin number, or even cameras being placed above the ATM for the same purpose. For this reason, always shield the pin pad on an ATM with your hand while entering your pin number. Find out the four ATM scams you need to look out for here.
Fees: When using an ATM that isn't part of your bank's network of machines, the machine sometimes notifies you about a fee charged by the bank or company that operates the ATM. You can avoid this by only using ATMs that are part of your bank’s network, but this takes away the convenience factor. ATMs also often charge fees when you are using a credit card rather than a debit card - find out more here.
Difficulty of use: For those who are unfamiliar with technology, using an ATM might cause some issues. An ATM is incapable of providing personalised instruction to the user in a way that a human teller can.
Eating a card: On occasion, an ATM may malfunction and swallow the user's card. This will result in them having to contact their bank to retrieve it, and they may be left without a card for a period of time.
Using UN population data for each European country along with IMF data stating the amount of ATMs per country in 2020, our personal finance experts worked out how many ATMs there were per capita, and per 100,000 people.
|Country||Population||Number of ATMs 2020||Number of ATMs per capita||Number of ATMs per 100,000 people|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||3492018||1627||0.0004659||46.6|
* Data not available for Monaco, France, Belgium, Czech Republic (Czechia) and Germany.
John Shepherd-Barron, a British inventor, invented the first ever ATM located in a Barclays bank branch in Enfield in June 1967. The cashpoint allowed customers to withdraw a maximum of £10.00 at a time
ATM fees are hugely varied across Europe; In the UK paying to use an ATM isn’t commonplace, especially if you’re using an ATM in your home bank network, yet in Germany ATMs charging around $4 is relatively usual.
The fees you will pay at a European ATM are dependent both your home bank’s fees, and the ATMs own fees.
Most banks list their charges for ATM use in their Terms & Conditions, or on their website.
Many UK banks don’t charge a fee at all, while some others offer a limited number of withdrawals for free, and others charge a flat fee with every withdrawal. Make sure to watch out for ATM fees when travelling abroad, as they often charge international bank fees.
If you are using an independent ATM which doesn’t belong to a bank e.g the ones you see in supermarkets or newsagents, these will often charge flat fees. To avoid this, always try to use ATMs belonging to banks or building societies.
Many bank accounts offer a number of free withdrawals every month, so be sure to find a bank account that includes this if you’re someone that does alot of withdrawals.
Stick to bank-owned ATMs: “Independent” ATMs that you see in small convenience stores or newsagents are more likely to charge you fees for using their service.
Plan ahead: If you know you will be needing a lot of cash, then it makes sense to be tactical and withdraw large amounts of money at once, especially if your bank charges for every withdrawal, or if you’re using an independent ATM. Make sure you store the excess cash safely at home to avoid carrying around a lot of cash at once.
Pay by debit card or Apple Pay/Google Pay where you can: The more you make contactless payments with your debit card or phone (which are more commonplace than ever after the Covid-19 pandemic) the less you will need to withdraw cash.
The worldwide pandemic saw many countries encouraging the use of contactless payments rather than cash, which saw ATM depletion in some countries across Europe. This doesn’t necessarily mean ATMs will become redundant, but they may not remain as we know them.
Experts have predicted ATMs will evolve, just as our smartphones have, to have built in finger-print or facial recognition, and they may give us access to financial advice. Furthermore, they could take on more of a traditional bank teller's job, potentially allowing us to open new accounts, transfer money between existing accounts or make secure payments
Personal finance experts at money.co.uk looked at the number of ATMs in each European country in 2010 and again in 2020 (source:IMF Financial Access Survey) to reveal the percentage increase/decrease. They then ranked the countries in order of most depleted ATMs to least depleted ATM's.
To work out the number of ATMs per 100,000 people, for each country, they divided the number of ATMs in 2020 by the country's population in 2020 and multiplied by 100,000.
Population data: UN Demographic Statistics Database
ATM data: IMF Financial Access Survey
Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press.