Banks closing ATMs across South Africa — with one exception

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Most of South Africa’s major banks have shut down automated teller machines (ATMs) in South Africa over the past five years, except for Capitec.

There has been a big increase in banked customers in the country due to the rise of more affordable entry-level banking products by established players and upstarts.

One of the biggest contributors in the affordable banking segment is Capitec, the only major bank that grew its ATM footprint — from 5,011 in 2019 to 8,382 in 2024.

That increase was insufficient to offset the roughly 8,000 fewer ATMs available across the country’s oldest banks — Absa, FNB, Nedbank, and Standard Bank.

The decline is curious, given that research has shown that cash has remained popular in South Africa.

A recent report by payments provider Stitch found that many South Africans still withdrew a significant portion of their salaries to transact in cash.

“As many as 95% now have a salary paid into a bank account each month, but many of them withdraw all or most of its as cash for day-to-day transactions,” Stitch found.

“Even as digital payment methods have grown in popularity in recent years, cash remains dominant. Our research found that South Africans use cash regularly, typically on a weekly or even daily basis.”

Roughly 65% of South Africans who participated in a survey for the report said they withdrew over 40% of their monthly income. Only 8% said they withdrew less than 20% of their income.

Therefore, the decline in ATMs is interesting, considering many people still prefer to use cash.

Likely, much of the demand for cash services is now serviced by retailer till points.

These are increasingly being adopted for withdrawals and deposits among all banks.

The shift towards retailer cash points has been driven by digital upstarts like TymeBank, which does not operate its own ATMs.

Instead, its customers can use 15,000 retailer till points or around 1,000 in-store kiosks to access cash services.

Those numbers more than compensate for the net loss of roughly 4,204 ATMs over the past five years.

The benefits of this solution include that customers can get or deposit cash with their regular shopping.

In addition, having a cash point inside a store makes it significantly more difficult for criminals to rob or compromise with skimming devices.

MyBroadband asked the country’s major banks for trends in digital and cash transactions and how their ATM footprints changed over the last year.

The table below shows the changes in the ATM numbers of South Africa’s five major banks from 2019 to their most recent reported financial year.

ATMs of Big Five banks
Banks 2019 Latest (2023 or 2024)
Absa 8,802 5,364 (-3,802)
Capitec 5,011 8,382 (+3,371)
FNB 5,780 4,790 (-990)
Nedbank 4,257 4,199 (-58)
Standard Bank 9,321 6,232 (-3,089)
Total 33,171 28,967 (-4,204)

Absa

Absa said its ATM footprint remained stable over the last year, with a “relatively” small decline in numbers attributed to sporadic violent crime.

That includes bombing of certain ATMs sites, for which replacement units were no longer feasible.

The bank said overall demand for ATM services had moderated, largely due to the growth of e-commerce and customers’ migration to digital banking.


Capitec

Editorial credit: Roxane 134 / Shutterstock.com

Capitec said its ATM demand was a function of variable factors such as economic growth and the interest rate.

However, it acknowledged there was an evident slight decrease in cash usage.

“The increase and development in digital solutions increased the options available to clients, and adoption of these services is increasing as a result,” the bank said.


FNB

Editorial credit: Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock.com

Zibu Nqala, FNB Points of Presence CEO Zibu Nqala said the bank continuously evaluated device placement, which is driven by local market alignment and device economics.

“Although there is a downsize in ATMs, we are installing more ADTs [automated deposit tellers] for expanded functionality for our customers,”  Nqaual said.

“Over time, the demand for ATM services has remained relatively flat with cash values for the calendar year December 2023 being up 0.7%.”


Nedbank

Editorial credit: Hubert Knoblauch / Shutterstock.com

According to Nedbank Channels managing executive Werner Terblanch, the bank removed 62 obsolete devices over the last two years to ensure its device estate remained current and optimally placed.

Nevertheless, it had observed an increase in demand for its ATM services, including by non-Nedbank customers.

“However, we also note the increasing trend in digital payments and transfers, which could potentially impact the future growth of ATM transactions,” Terblanche said.


Standard Bank

Editorial credit: Africanstar / Shutterstock.com

Standard Bank South Africa’s head of personal and private banking, Kabelo Makeke, said the bank has focused on introducing new technology ATM devices with significantly improved transaction speed and overall quality of service.

“The new ATMs have higher capacity and offer more client services, including real-time acceptance, validation, and recycling of bulk cash, official bank documents such as account statement, proof of banking details and confirmation of deposit which can either be printed at the ATM or sent on e-mail,” Makeke said.

“This is part of a five-year journey which will also result in either removal or relocation of low transacting ATMs to areas that are more convenient and accessible to clients.”

Makeke said that cash withdrawal demand had not yet fully recovered from the decrease in cash usage during the Covid-19 period, when its clients adopted digital solutions.

However, there has been an increase in ATM cash deposits driven by branch cash migration.

Standard Bank also removed the Saswitch fee for its clients, allowing them to withdraw cash at other banks’ ATMs for the same fee they would pay at one of its own ATMs.

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