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3rd May 2019

Which? raises alarm as almost 1,700 free ATMs become fee-charging
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Britain’s free-to-use ATM network is on course to be decimated in the coming months unless urgent action is taken to protect access to cash, new research from Which? reveals. New figures obtained by the consumer champion show fees of at least 95p per withdrawal were imposed on 1,700 machines between January and March this year.

The figures show the rate of machines being converted to charge fees appears to be on the rise – with a staggering 1,250 (74 per cent) of these conversions taking place in March alone. Most of the ATMs affected are operated by Cardtronics – the UK’s biggest cashpoint operator – which has warned it is likely to convert a further thousand machines to charge fees in the coming months.

Notemachine, another major cashpoint provider, has warned it is considering converting up to 4,000 machines in its 7,000-strong network to charge fees due to changes in how Britain’s biggest network of ATMs is funded. If these plans go ahead, Britain stands to lose more than 13 per cent of its free cashpoints in a matter of months.

These rapid changes – which have also seen thousands of cashpoints closed – are stripping communities of the ability to get free access to their own money. Which? is concerned that the cost of cash withdrawals has been shifted from banks to consumers, with poor and vulnerable people – who are most reliant on cash to pay for goods and services – hardest hit by the change.

When the consumer champion asked supporters how much they were being charged per withdrawal, 22.55 per cent said they were having to pay between £1.50 to £1.99, 50.65 per cent of respondents said they faced fees of between 50p to 99p. Meanwhile, 83.69 per cent of respondents said they would no longer use a cashpoint that had converted to fee-charging, meaning consumers face having to travel further to their nearest free cashpoint or being forced to find alternatives.

While digital payments are on the rise in the UK, there is still real appetite across the UK for access to cash, with 2.2 million people almost entirely reliant on cash in their daily lives. Which? is warning that without regulatory action the UK risks drifting into a no-cash society that could shut people out of paying for local goods and services.

The consumer champion is calling on Government to appoint a regulator to protect consumers and businesses alike from these rapid changes and properly manage the cash landscape to ensure no-one is denied their ability to access cash.

Gareth Shaw, Head of Money, Which?, said: “Communities are being stripped of free access to cash at an alarming rate that could hit the most vulnerable in our society the hardest, while denying millions of people free withdrawals.

“A regulator is desperately needed to get a grip of these rapid changes across the cash landscape and ensure all those still reliant on this important payment method aren’t suddenly shut out from accessing the cash they need in their daily lives.”