Cash strapped: Hundreds of communities struggling to access cash, warns Which?

New analysis from Which? has identified 259 communities across the UK that have poor cashpoint provision or no cashpoints at all, raising fears that countless people are struggling to access cash.

The consumer champion analysed data from Link and was alarmed to discover that 130 postcode districts with a combined population of 115,741 do not have a single cashpoint. Of these, 36 areas do not have a Post Office, leaving residents in ‘cash deserts.’  

A further 129 communities have just one ATM – 65 per cent (84) of which charge a fee for withdrawals, suggesting an increasing number of people are being forced to pay just to access their cash, with poorer people often hardest hit. Which? recently found that the most deprived areas are seeing the biggest spike in fee-charging machines.

The analysis comes as Which? launches its ’consumer agenda for government’, calling on all political parties to set out a pro-consumer agenda with commitments that deliver positive, tangible improvements for individuals across the UK. This includes calls for the next government to guarantee access to cash for as long as it is needed through legislation.

Which?’s investigation also highlights the worst hit areas in the country for ATM provision – the areas with the highest populations that don’t have a single cash machine.  

Postcode district PE32 in Peterborough was the most populated area (15,294) without a single cashpoint. This is followed by DL11 in Darlington (5,308), NE43 in Newcastle (4,532) and NR24 in Norwich (4,462).

While these communities have access to a Post Office, ATMs remain by far the most popular means of withdrawing cash. Which? believes Post Office access is not a direct substitute.

Additionally, Which? has identified the areas with the highest populations without a cashpoint or Post Office – meaning residents in these locations could be at risk of being cut off from cash infrastructure entirely. These are: AB13 in Aberdeen (2,725), EH18 in Edinburgh (2,233), TN7 in Tunbridge Wells (2,151) – and SN26 in Swindon, with a population of 1,827.

Which? first raised the alarm about the risk of a wave of cashpoint closures in December 2017 after Link announced changes to the way its network was funded. Almost two years later Which? found that cashpoints closed at a rate of 578 machines a month in the first half of 2019. 

Which? is concerned that the 259 areas it identified as having particularly poor cashpoint provision are also especially vulnerable to the rapid rate of cashpoint closures in neighbouring areas meaning these communities could be left further isolated.

To stop cash machines closing in the short-term, or converting to fee-charging in areas where they are most needed, Which? is calling on the Payment Systems Regulator to take control of cashpoint interchange fees, changes to which were a catalyst for the widespread closures seen in recent months.  

Ultimately, Which? believes the next government must intervene to introduce legislation that guarantees consumers can continue to access and pay with cash for as long as it is needed.


Gareth Shaw, Head of Money, Which?, said:

“The countless communities across the UK with shockingly low cash machine provision show that measures intended to guarantee access to cash simply don’t work – and point to mismanagement of the broken cash landscape that is leaving many people struggling.

“These communities have found themselves presented with a confusing array of schemes from regulators and the industry claiming to fix the problem. Only intervention from the next government to properly protect cash for as long as it is needed can help the many people struggling for vital cash access.”


Notes to editors

Of the 130 communities that don’t have a cashpoint, some 36 also do not have a Post Office. These places have a combined population of 19,347.

The rate of cashpoint closures between January – July 2019 is 578 a month. 

All cashpoint closure figures originate from Link. Link provided Which? with data of its entire network from August 2019. This was used to identify cashpoint provision across the UK.

The Post Office provided data of its entire network from March 2019.

Postcode district populations are derived from the 2011 Census.

Poor cashpoint provision

The communities with the highest population and just a single cashpoint are: TA7 in Taunton, with just one machine serving its 14,982 residents. This is followed by WR6 in Worcester, which has one fee-charging machine for its 12,091 residents. CV13 in Coventry (10,714) and YO13 in York (10,111) both have just one free cashpoint serving their collective population that tops 20,000.


Request an ATM tool

To help communities across the country struggling with poor free cashpoint provision, the consumer champion is working with Link to help consumers request an ATM – including launching its own tool: Which? is encouraging communities across the UK to demand access to cash where it’s needed and will be monitoring Link’s progress to ensure that cashpoints are installed as quickly and effectively as possible.


ATMs remain the most popular means of withdrawing cash: 


Which?’s manifesto can be found here (The link goes live at midnight, Thursday):  

Press Release