Fears over access to cash as more than 250 free-to-use cash machines disappear every month
- A total of nearly 3,000 cashpoints were lost in the second half of last year
- Just over 1,500 were free-to-use ATMs and 102 were ‘protected’ machines
- ATMs closures add to bank branches also closing at an ‘alarming rate’, with 3,300 UK branches having closed their doors since 2015
Over 250 free-to-use cash machines are disappearing across the UK every month, leaving shoppers and businesses struggling to access cash, new figures have showed.
A total of nearly 3,000 cashpoints were lost in the second half of last year, with more than half of them, or just over 1,500, being free-to-use ATMs, according to research by consumer group Which?.
Even some 102 so-called ‘protected’ machines vanished – those cash points which are more than 1km (0.6 miles) away from the next nearest free ATM or are located in particularly deprived parts of the country where access to cash is vital.
‘Alarming rate’ of closures: Nearly 3,000 cashpoints disappeared in the last six months of 2018
ATMs closures add to bank branches also closing at an ‘alarming rate’, with 3,300 UK branches having closed their doors since 2015.
Which? said the double blow of cashpoint and bank closures was leaving communities struggling to access the cash they rely on and called for ‘urgent regulatory action’ to manage these changes.
The closure of cash points has accelerated over the last year. This is partly due to the rise popularity of cashless payments, which is making cash less necessary, as well as to changes in the way the UK’s cash machine network is funded.
Concerns about ATM closures were heightened last year when banks announced they would slash the fees they paid to cash machine operators for each withdrawal.
But last month Link, the country’s largest operator of cash machines, said it will hike the fees it pays to operators of ATMs in a bid to stop more closures.
Link said a new super premium will be paid by banks to ATM operators in some places where cash machines are situated in remote and less well-off parts of the country.
ATM operators will receive enhanced premiums of up to £2.75 each time someone withdraws cash from an eligible machine under the changes.
Around 1,000 cash machines will initially be eligible and the enhanced premiums will vary in size depending on how well a particular ATM is used.
Currently, Link pays operators of free-to-use cash machines a 30p subsidy for every withdrawal made, so that could go up as much as nine-fold in some cases.
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.’
Which? said cash was a vital backup as fallible digital payments grow in popularity
A Link spokesman said they agreed with Which? that free access to cash was ‘vital’ for consumers and added: ‘As payment habits continue to change and more customers shop online or use contactless cards, the UK needs to work out how to maintain cash access, including from ATMs and also from other outlets such as the Post Office and from retailers’ tills.
‘Link’s financial inclusion programme is key to ensuring that the UK’s cash infrastructure continues to deliver free access to cash for consumers regardless of the marked decline in cash usage.’
A spokesman for the Payment Systems Regulator said they were holding Link to account for its commitment to preserve the spread of free-to-use cashpoints in all parts of the country.
‘We’re satisfied so far with the way Link has responded to our specific direction we gave it in October 2018, but we’ll be continuing to check on the effectiveness of its measures in ensuring widespread free access to cash,’ the spokesman added.
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