Cash points are closing at a rate of 16 per day, the fastest ever recorded, according to consumer group Which? showing that cash machines disappeared at a rate of 488 per month between June and December last year.

Over the six months, 2,962 cash points were taken out of service, representing a 4.6% decline in the overall network of 63,152. As a result of the study Which? is calling on the Government to appoint a regulator to protect access to cash, as a combination of bank branch and cashpoint closures risks leaving people struggling to pay for essential goods and services. Which? says that despite the increased popularity of digital and card payments – which have proven vulnerable to IT failures – having access to cash is still a necessity for more than 25 million people across the country.

Which? has said that it is concerned that the double blow of cashpoint and bank closures – with more than 3,300 UK branches closing since 2015 – is leaving communities struggling to access the cash they rely on. It is a warning that the UK risks drifting into a cashless society that could shut people out of paying for local goods and services without urgent regulatory action to manage these changes and intervene when necessary to protect this payment method.

Recent analysis has found that leading banks are suffering at least one major security or IT glitch per week – with outages of Visa payments and IT failures across a vast number of UK banks, including the prolonged issues at TSB, which have caused chaos for millions of customers. Which? is concerned that people will be left vulnerable without a non-digital payment alternative as access to cash declines across the UK.

Previous Which? research has revealed the UK has lost two-thirds of its branch network in the last 30 years, leaving a fifth of households more than three kilometres from their nearest bank.

Jenni Allen, Managing Director, Which? Money, said “We have serious concerns that the alarming rate of cashpoint and bank branch closures risks leaving people facing an uphill battle to access the cash they rely on.”

“Cash is also a vital backup as fallible digital payments grow in popularity – so the Government must appoint a regulator to oversee these changes and ensure no-one is excluded and left struggling to go about their daily lives.”