Which? reveals consumer reliance on free-to-use ATMs ahead of possible reduction

Ahead of moves that could greatly reduce Britain’s free-to-use ATM network, Which? reveals consumer reliance on cash machines, with eighty percent of people finding access to free-to-use ATMs important to their daily lives and needs.

Which? surveyed over 1,200 members to understand the impact that a potential reduction in free-to-use ATMs would have on the millions of consumers who use the network. Overall, Which? found a heavy consumer dependency on ATM usage, with just under half (44%) using a cashpoint at least once a week. Meanwhile, four in five (80%) said that access to the free-to-use network was important to their daily lives and paying for goods and services.

Removing free-to-use access would leave one in 10 (9%) struggling to make payments, shutting many consumers out from local shops and services. A reduction would also lead to one in seven (16%) being deterred from using outlets that accept cash only, placing a strain on consumers and retailers alike.

Which? is concerned that LINK – the UK’s largest cash machine network – proposals to lower the interchange fees by 20% could lead to closures of free-to-use ATM machines across Britain. The fee in question – currently around 25p per withdrawal – is paid by banks per withdrawal to maintain the free-to-use ATM network.

LINK has said it will encourage operators to keep free machines and to protect free-to-use ATMs that are a kilometre or more from the next nearest free cash machine. However, Cardtronics, the biggest ATM operator in the UK, has said that those hit hardest would not be busy high streets, but ATMs in rural communities.

Which? found that one in 10 (11%) have to walk for more than 30 minutes to access their nearest cashpoint, while a further one in 10 (9%) said the nearest machine was too far away to reach on foot. This means that one in five (20%) Which? members do not have convenient access to a free-to-use machine.

Which? also previously revealed that over 200 communities in Britain already struggle with either poor access to free ATMs, or no cash machines at all, meaning a reduction would leave many consumers struggling for access, or having to trek miles to neighbouring towns just to withdraw cash.

Which? is calling on the Payment Systems Regulator to conduct an urgent review to fully evaluate the impact that these changes could have on consumers, millions of whom rely on access to cash.

Gareth Shaw, Which? Money Expert, said:

“These proposals could leave consumers facing an uphill struggle to access the cash they need, trekking miles to machines, or shut out of local shops and services altogether.

“Consumers are clearly still reliant on the free-to-use ATM network, so the Payment Systems Regulator must conduct a thorough market review of LINK’s proposals to ensure their needs are protected.”

Notes to editors:

Which? surveyed 1275 members between 18th December 2017 to 2nd January 2018

In 2016, the Bank of England’s Chief Cashier Victoria Cleland said:  “2.7 million people in the UK rely almost entirely on cash transactions – a number that has increased by half a million since 2015. In 2016 the value of Bank of England notes in circulation increased by 10%, reaching over £70 billion in the run-up to Christmas: the fastest growth in a decade.”

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