Vocalink, a Mastercard company, provides transaction switching, clearing and settlement for the UK LINK ATM scheme — one of the world's busiest ATM networks comprising over 55,000 ATMs. It’s just one way we’re committed to enabling payment choice.
We invited our partner to share their thoughts and insights on UK people's use of cash and ATMs during the coronavirus pandemic, and how the crisis will affect both in the short-term and beyond.
Graham Mott, LINK: The UK is in a very different place to what was expected just a few months ago. The outbreak of coronavirus reminds us that, for all our knowledge and technical know-how, there are events over which we have little or no control and the modern, globalised world is not immune to the ancient threat of infectious diseases. The impact has been profound, as old certainties around travel, leisure, health, privacy and personal freedom are all challenged. Inequality and unfairness have in some cases been exposed and governments worldwide are struggling to balance the challenges of economic recovery with protecting public health. However, as we look at a world which appears very different in many ways, we are perhaps just seeing an acceleration and magnification of trends which were already there. What we are seeing may just be the future of four to eight years hence, but on fast forward.
This acceleration of change is seen across a huge swathe of activity. In the UK, before the pandemic, of the 32.6 million people in employment, 1.7 million (around 5%) worked mainly from home, now around 14 million (45%) are doing so. While some will go back, in many cases it will not be full time to the office and both employers and employees are realising their working lives can be arranged differently. Facilitated by fast broadband, home shopping, mobile apps and remote working technologies this has profoundly changed many peoples’ experience of work and their boundaries between work and home life and it will have huge knock on effects for travel, town and city centres and the huge range of businesses and services that support the workplace and commuters.
This, along with many other changes will also affect many consumers need for and use of cash. As lockdown took effect (3 April 2020), usage of LINK ATMs fell by over 60 percent by volume and almost 60 percent by value. Shopping and travel outside the home was drastically curtailed but cash usage remained perhaps surprisingly robust, with weekly withdrawals of around £1 billion (compared to around £2.3 billion for the same week in 2019). Now (as of 19 June 2020), as lockdown has been gradually eased, cash usage is steadily increasing with LINK seeing £1.4 billion being withdrawn each week; even if the high street is a very different place with Perspex screens, social distancing, online 'click and collect', and more self-service terminals.
Right from the start of this crisis LINK’s research, which asked how people thought the crisis would affect their future use of cash, showed 49 percent would use cards more, 33 percent would do more shopping online and 28 percent would use ATMs less often. However, despite this, many consumers still need and prefer cash. Even now almost 20 percent of people say their cash use hasn’t changed and another 20 percent are saying their reduction in use has only been small.
This crisis has shown how important contingency and resilience are and cash remains a vital component of this. LINK therefore remains committed to supporting consumers need for cash for as long as it is needed, including maintaining the coverage of free-to-use ATMs in remote and rural locations and improving free access in the most deprived parts of the UK.
LINK and its members continue to invest in these communities and ensure that, even as the UK becomes more digital, LINK will protect those who continue to choose and rely on cash.