The amount of cash withdrawn at Post Offices hit an all-time high on the last Friday before Christmas as people sourced last-minute gifts, the group has revealed.
More than £62 million was withdrawn by personal customers on Friday December 22, the highest amount ever taken out on a single day.
The total beats the previous record by more than £10 million, when £51.5 million was taken out over the counter on Friday December 23 2022.
Some £800,000 was withdrawn on Christmas Day itself, the Post Office revealed.
Furthermore, about £1.1 million was deposited by personal customers and the same amount by business customers over the counter.
Ross Borkett, the Post Office’s head of banking, said: “For some people, being able to withdraw cash for free helped them to finish last-minute shopping for the big day, for others it may have been a last-minute gift.
“Business cash deposits being made on Christmas Day indicate just how vital it is that pub and restaurant owners have somewhere open and convenient to deposit their much-needed Christmas cash takings ahead of a quieter January.”
ATM network Link also said the last Friday before Christmas had been the busiest day of the year for cash withdrawals, and the biggest total since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Around £460 million was withdrawn on December 22, on what was the last working day before Christmas for many people, ahead of a four-day break.
The average value of a withdrawal on that day was just under £105, according to Link.
Link chief executive John Howells said: “We generally see higher withdrawals ahead of bank holidays and the end of the month, but ATM use is changing.
“Pre-pandemic, people would typically visit ATMs around twice a week and take out around £65. Post-Covid, with more people comfortable using contactless payments, people tend to visit once and take out more, on average £85.
“Over the past few years, our research shows cash use is highest at convenience stores, supermarkets but also paying family and friends.”
The Post Office has previously stressed that businesses, particularly in the leisure and hospitality sector, rely on its branches to deposit cash, especially in communities where bank branches have been shut down.
It has also suggested that the rising cost of living has led people to increasingly turn to cash to manage their budgets on a weekly basis and often day by day.
Simon Trevethick, head of communications at StepChange Debt Charity, said: “Christmas is always a difficult time for people in financial difficulty, but this year more than most, given the past two years of rampant inflation and rising interest rates, millions of households are feeling the squeeze.
“Our research earlier this month found that one in four people said they would struggle to afford Christmas this year, rising to more than one in three households with children.”
Cat Farrow, chief operating officer at Cash Access UK, said: “Although more people are making digital and contactless payments, cash is still important to millions of people to help manage their money, and it’s still a popular way of giving gifts to family members.”