December 3, 2018updated 03 Jan 2019 3:34pm

Nearly 5,000 ATMs disappeared in the UK last year in the move towards a cashless society

By Ellen Daniel

With an increasing number of stores now exclusively accepting credit or debit, Britain is increasingly moving towards being a cashless society.

In June, debit card payments overtook cash as the most popular payment method in the UK for the first time, and this preference for card over cash has led to a sharp decline in the number of ATMs.

According to a study by Paymentsense, over 4,735 ATMs disappeared between July 2017 and June 2018.

With over 394 ATMs closing each month, Brits are looking to other ways to pay, as research by First Bus revealed that one in five never carries cash. This is only set to continue, with Expert Market predicting that ATMs could disappear altogether by 2037 as a cashless society becomes a reality.

Banks close as cashless society sees growing momentum

This follows a sharp decline in the number of bank branches so far this year, with nearly 13,000 bank branch closures occurring in 2018.

Although many have embraced the adoption of adopting non-cash payments and technology, those who still require a physical bank may find it increasingly difficult to locate one. A study by Which? found that 19% of the population now lives nearly two miles away from the nearest bank branch.

The research showed that Edinburgh has been hit the hardest with over 50 local bank branches closing between 2015-18. Remote areas such as Cornwall and Wiltshire have also been hit hard with over 46 banks branches closing in the past three years. In the capital, Westminster saw 37 bank closures between 2015-2018.

Hidden harm in a cashless society

Although a reduction in the amount of cash in circulation may be convenient for many, as well as possibly causing a reduction in petty crime, for the older or disadvantaged members of society, a decline in the number of bank branches and ATMs may not be a positive thing, with cash remaining an important way of paying particularly for these groups.

Last month, The Treasury Select Committee launched an inquiry into consumer access to financial services, looking at the impact of a falling number of ATMs on society. With 2.2 million people in the UK still relying entirely on cash, the impact of this must be carefully considered in the trend towards non-cash transactions.

Guy Moreve, Chief Marketing Officer at Patmentsense believes that although there has been a fall in the demand for cash, those who still rely on it, such as small businesses, must consider new payment methods:

“Our research earlier this year highlighted that as a society, we’re now close to becoming cashless with contactless making up over 42% of all transactions. As you can see from our latest study ATM’s and bank branches are closing at an alarming rate.

“This in part is affected by the rise in contactless transactions and the need for cash falling. As consumers become more comfortable in using digital forms of payments the need for cash machines is decreasing. There are a lot of businesses who still rely on cash as their main payment method. Therefore in order for them to remain competitive in the market, it’s time for them to consider card payments and avoid consumers walking out if there is no ATM in or nearby their premises.”

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