The on-going row about closure of free to use ATMs has stepped up a gear with the revelation that 1,250 started charging fees in March alone.
Consumer champion Which? has been heading a long-running campaign over concerns about access to cash – hundreds of bank branch closures and thousands of ATMs either switching to charging or disappearing altogether.
Link, which operates the UK’s largest cash machine network, has confirmed that more than 1,250 formerly free to use machines are now charging customers to access their own money.
A further 450 switched earlier in the year.
Which? head of money, Gareth Shaw, 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.”
The closures have been growing after the fee operators receive from the banks each time a machine is used has started to drop.
Link said it had reduced the fee from 25p to 23p per free withdrawal to protect the ATM network. At the start of the year there were approximately 52,000 free to use machines across the UK.
Now Note Machine, which operates 7,000 of them, has said it is considering starting to charge in up to 4,000.
Chief executive Peter McNamara said: “Unless urgent action is taken to reduce the pressure on ATM operators by reversing the interchange fee reductions, Note Machine will be forced to begin converting ATMs to surcharging.”
Rival operator Cardtronics said it was likely to convert 1,000 of its machines to fee charging over the next few months.
A spokesman said: “We have been forced into charging a fee for cash withdrawals on some of our machines where Link’s cuts have left us with no choice.”
Reports of fees charged vary from 50p per withdrawal to £1.99.
Access to cash
The Which? campaign emphasises the need for access to cash claiming that despite the rise in mobile and online banking plus the rise of contactless payments, claiming ‘around 2.2 million people are still almost entirely reliant on cash in their daily lives’.
An online petition entitled Freedom to Pay – Our way has gathered 142,190 signatures so far. The front page says: “Small business owners.
People who have to live on tight budgets. Rural and isolated communities. Some people living with disabilities. These are just some of the people who rely on cash.
““Cash is a necessity many couldn’t live without and it’s a vital backup when digital payment systems fail.””