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Number of ATMs falls globally as cash continues to die

The number of cash machines around the world fell last year as usage of paper money and coins continues to decline. New research by banking consultancy RBR claims that the number of ATMs (automated teller machines) declined by 1% to 3.24m in 2018.

FILE - This Nov. 29, 2018, file photo shows an ATM in Philadelphia. It’s important to find a bank that meets all your unique needs in terms of access, technology and cost. Be sure to consider credit unions or online banks that typically offer lower fees and better interest rates. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
An ATM in Philadelphia. Numbers declined in four out of the five biggest markets globally. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

The fall comes amid declining usage of cash in developed markets globally. Sweden has already gone cashless and only 30% of transactions in the UK use cash today. Consumer group Which? said this month that the number of free cash machines in the UK declined by 1,700 in the first three months of the year.

READ MORE: Death of cash is killing off free ATMs in Britain


Four of the world’s five biggest markets for cash machines registered a drop in numbers last year, RBR said. The number of ATMs fell in China, the USA, Japan, and Brazil.

“While the outcome was the same, each of these markets had its own reasons for the removal of ATMs,” RBR said. “In China, the swift adoption of non-cash payments has contributed to a similarly rapid fall in ATM installations. Branch closures have led to fewer bank ATMs in the USA.”

Growth in the number of ATMs in India, the fifth biggest market, slowed. Between them, China, the USA, Japan, Brazil, and India are home to over half of the world’s ATMs.

READ MORE: 'Dramatic collapse' of cash in UK could exclude millions of elderly, poor and rural people

While the number of ATMs fell in the world’s biggest markets, RBR said most countries around the world registered a rise in cash machines due to financial inclusion drives. However, the fall in the biggest markets offset increases elsewhere.

The decline of ATMs and the use of cash could potentially harm certain sections of society. A report into the decline of cash in the UK earlier this year found: “17% of the UK population – over eight million adults – would struggle to cope in a cashless society.” The elderly, poor, and rural dwellers would be particularly hard-hit, the report said.

UK Chancellor Philip Hammond this month created the “Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group,” which will make sure that all Britons are still able to have access to cash if they want to use it.

READ MORE: 1p and 2ps saved as government vows to protect cash