Free-to-use ATMs vanishing at alarming rate: Consumer group


The consumer group said its latest analysis suggests there has been a spike in the number of people forced to pay to withdraw their own money from ATMs

Consumer group Which? has said that free-to-use cash machines are vanishing at an alarming rate.

The consumer group said its latest analysis suggests there has been a spike in the number of people forced to pay to withdraw their own money from ATMs.

Some of the most deprived areas, where people are more likely to depend on cash, have seen a significant shift from free-to-use dispensers to machines that generally charge up to £2 per withdrawal in recent years, Which? found.

Which? wants to see a “clear blueprint” on the future of cash. The Government has previously pledged to legislate on the issue.

Which? said that, since 2018, there have been 44% and 40% reductions in free-to-use ATMs in two Birmingham constituencies of Hall Green and Hodge Hill respectively, and a 59% increase in pay-to-use machines.

Nottingham East has seen 43% of free cash machines closed, but pay-to-use machines have risen 11%, Which? said.

It said all three locations are within the top 10% for deprivation in England.

ATMs are the most commonly-used means of withdrawing cash, with UK Finance figures showing 91% of cash withdrawals took place through cash machines in 2019.

While there are other options, such as cashback and counter withdrawals that may play a greater role in future, ATMs currently remain an important indicator of access levels, Which? said.

Gareth Shaw, Which? head of money, said: Everyone should have reasonable access to their own money without having to pay. Yet our research shows free cash machines are vanishing at an alarming rate – often in areas where people need them most.

ATMs are only one piece of the jigsaw, and the Government needs to swiftly set out its plans for the future of cash. Legislation is a fundamental part of this, and there is an urgent need for a clear timeframe for when it will be in place, so that industry and regulators can work with the Government to ensure that cash is protected as a payment method for those who have no other option, Shaw said.

Natalie Ceeney, chairwoman of the Access to Cash Review, said: We are failing to spot the warning signs and are sleepwalking into a cashless society.

Only last week the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) published new data showing that at least five million people depend on cash, and that 16% of the population are struggling with cash access and acceptance right now, Ceeney said.

She said, undoubtedly more people are comfortable with card and digital payments, but the bottom line is that not everyone is – in fact millions aren’t. We urgently need the promised legislation to protect cash for those who need it.

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