/ Money

Getting rid of cashpoints is ripping apart communities: is yours affected? 

closed cashpoint

Thousands of free-to-use cashpoints are at risk of closure, which could have a real impact in rural communities, where residents rely on them to access their cash. At an event in Parliament this week, we once again urged the regulator to step in…

For millions of us living in small towns and villages across the country, life often revolves around a series of barely noticed but essential daily rituals.

The daily stroll to buy a newspaper and perhaps a pint of milk, stopping for a chat with the shopkeeper who you’ve known for years.

There might be a chance encounter with a friend on the high street and time for a cup of tea before hopping on a bus to visit a friend or relative across town.

Perhaps you take your child to a mother and baby group, sing in the choir or are a member of the bridge club – and in the evening enjoy a meal in a local pub or restaurant before taking a taxi home.

These small interactions and activities are the glue that holds our communities together – and all rely heavily on people having easy access to cash to pay for these goods and services locally.

Access denied

But many communities could soon see their access to cash cut off – with free-to-use cashpoints threatened with closure by changes to the way the network is funded.

Link – the UK’s largest cash machine network – has announced a 20% reduction in the fees banks pay machine operators when their customers withdraw cash.

Such reductions will make some cashpoints no longer financially viable to run, leading to machines being removed in their thousands.

These changes have been led by pressures from some banks keen to cut their costs and have been waved through without any consideration for the very real impact they would have on communities.

Our campaign

That’s why Which? has teamed up with the Federation of Small Businesses to call on the Payment System Regulator (PSR) to urgently intervene and ensure that people won’t be stripped of their preferred and relied-upon method of payment.

Many people and small businesses are already reeling from bank branch closures – over 2,000 in the past three years alone.

The removal of free-to-use cashpoints would be a further blow, leaving many people facing an uphill struggle simply to pay for the goods and services they depend upon.

We know that over 2.7 million people are almost entirely reliant on cash. And we know, from the countless stories we’ve heard since our campaign launch, that for many people, there is much more at stake than convenience.

We heard from Sue, who lives in a rural Welsh community that’s already been hit with bank closures.

She needs cash to pay the milkman, top up electricity and pay the food delivery scheme of which she’s a member.

Her ability to carry out all these essential daily tasks is suddenly thrown into real doubt by potential cashpoint closures.

Cashpoint deserts

Recently, we found more than 200 mostly rural communities to be under-resourced in terms of access to a free-to-use cashpoint – with just one machine, or none at all.

Cardtronics – the UK’s largest operator of machines – has already warned that these changes will have the greatest impact in these areas.

This campaign is not about trying to halt the march of progress. There is scope to reduce the number of cashpoints side-by-side in cities and large towns as other forms of payment reduce the use of cash by many people.

We recognise that technological advances have brought new ways to pay that have enriched people’s daily lives. But we also recognise the needs of all those who do rely on free cash to go about their business. So the PSR must explore all the options available to guarantee convenient access to free withdrawals across the UK.

That’s why, at an event in Parliament on 26 February, we called on the PSR to intervene and ensure people like Sue, and all those people and communities that rely on accessing cash, can continue to do so.

This is an adapted version of an article by Peter Vicary-Smith, which was originally published in The Telegraph.

Do you think the PSR should be doing more to protect access to free-to-use cashpoints? Is your community being affected by cashpoint closures?


In the past few years I have seen the loss of ATMs and bank branches. What drew my attention to this was finding that a bank branch had closed in Llangollen the day before I visited it. In an area that I visit over the Christmas break, two of the four ATMs have gone in the past year.

We have a small ATM in the village shop, serving about 2000 people. It is well used and sometimes empty, so I hope it will survive. Our large and well used Post Office counter has been taken over by a delicatessen and although it survives as a combined shop checkout and Post Office I suspect its days are numbered.

I have never seen anyone pay by card in the village pub. I asked him how he would be affected by the ban on card surcharges and after consideration, said that he would only accept cards for a minimum payment of £10. The window cleaner takes cash too. Athough I’m happy to pay by card, many are not, so I will be fighting to retain our ATM if the ned arises.

We need coordination of facilities in rural areas. It would not make sense to accept that an ATM can be removed on the basis that a Post Office or cashback could be used to provide cash unless there is some certainty that these facilities will remain.

The Link service provided one of the best examples of how facilities can be shared for the benefit of customers and the companies. The companies need to make a profit, undoubtedly, but that does not mean that the operation of every ATM does.

I expect we are going to have a repeat of all the comments made in the previous recent Convos on this topic. This intro seems to add nothing, but makes absolutely no mention of any of the rational and constructive points previously made.

It seems an example of how little Convos contribute to Which?’s thinking.

I’d like to see just what is likely to happen, from all parties involved. Perhaps Which? / P V-S would like them to present their views to this Convo so we can see the whole picture, rather than just respond to conjecture.

I agree. When I first saw this Conversation appear my reaction was “Oh! No! . . . Not another one . . .”

I remain in doubt whether the Payments Systems Regulator has any powers to stop the withdrawal of cash machines or compel the provision of them. At least the banks and Cardtronics now know they need to get a move on before the Regulator limbers up.

Ditto, and shock horror at cash machines ripping apart communities.

alfa, I must admit the headline had not registered. “Getting rid of cashpoints is ripping apart communities“. Absolute hyperbolic rubbish. Have Which? been taken over by Rupert?

Why on earth does what should be a respected, independent and rational organisation have to indulge in such nonsensical statements? But I might be the only one who thinks we can deal with problems without linking them to the end of the world as we know it.

Wonder if we should start a trend by supporting the removal of all ATMs from everywhere as they contribute to crime, gambling addiction and penury?

The headline was originally used for the Telegraph article. I cannot compare the two articles because I would need to register on the Telegraph website.

Like you, Wavechange, I will not sign up to read a newspaper article.

A friend recently invited me to sign an on-line petition. Nearly all the justifications for the petition’s statement were contained in links to newspapers so I did not open them. I carried out my own research and wrote direct to my MP. I think that, and writing direct to the appropriate government minister, is still the best way to express an opinion on something. My personal views rarely align entirely with the points made in a mass protest and I usually get an individual reply – and sometimes an explanation of the policy.

It’s difficult to know the best approach, John. I have had useful responses from MPs, though I cannot remember receiving a personal response from a minister. I have not had reason to write to my MP, though a charitable trust that I’m a member of did encourage all members to do this. I don’t believe MPs deserve to be treated in this way, especially on a matter that I did not consider particularly important.

Whatever the headline, I’m very grateful that Which? is trying to help save ATMs for those of us who still have one that could be saved.

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Morning all, apologies that a few of you felt the title skewed the discussion. I’ll accept that when compared to other issues in some communities this is hyperbolic. However, our research shows that the sentiment stands. Some communities are already struggling to easily acces their cash and many local economies still rely heavily on cash. My small town is a community which still has a number of retailers who don’t take cash, we have a market that relies on cash payment too and when my car broke down recently and I had to rely on the bus I was surprised to find out that the very expensive bus journey was cash only… and it wasn’t cheap either. Mine hometown isn’t a great example as people can get by without having to rely on cash, but this isn’t true for other more rural communities.

@leitz, “a few of you “: 4 out of 9 commenters – 44% – criticised this convo.

our research shows” but suggestions, proposals, comments in previous convos on this topic were ignored – selective research perhaps? Can you provide a link to this research please?

We simply shared with you all an article that was written an published in The Telegraph – but apparently “an adapted version of an article by Peter Vicary-Smith,” so it would be taken as representing Which?’s views. That is if anyone reads the DT these days.

I would like Which? to be less defensive when responding to comments. This is far from a one-sided story, apart from the great uncertainty as to what might, or might not, happen. I would support Which? in delving into this issue and doing what it can to see that a sensible outcome results, but that may not be protecting every ATM as there are other solutions available. Just please put fair, balanced and factual arguments forward, and avoid the scaremongering headlines.

Thanks for recognising “this is hyperbolic” . 🙂

Sorry – it’s Monday morning 🙁


…and, to cap it all, you split another infinitive, Lauren. 🙂

Thanks, Ian. I awkwardly typed from my mobile phone while sat on my cancelled train this morning with my signal dipping in and out. All in all, not the best start to the week so far.

Malcolm, the research was conducted earlier this year and is here: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/01/cash-machines-which-warns-on-communities-hit-with-lack-of-atms/

@ldeitz, thanks Lauren, I do remember this now.

You do appreciate I was only joking, Lauren? The Split Infinitive – like every other grammatical ‘rule’ – isn’t immutable and, sometimes, works better than the more cumbersome ‘correct’ structure.


I’m intrigued to know how Lauren came to be sitting on a “cancelled” train. And for how long before she realised. 🙂

Haha, poorly explained. I was actually commenting from a later running train after two cancelled services, one of which was cancelled at the station… faults with trains after wintry weather and shortage of train crew was the cause for the disruption this morning. Sorry to be off-topic!

Should they put ATMs on trains? No, I don’t mean that as a serious suggestion. 🙁 I have a personal ATM – the drawer under the mattress where I keep spare cash. I topped it up on Saturday while out shopping.

Maybe not on trains, but I did spot that in Germany they have mobile banking by bus. The bus bank provides rural communities in Bavaria with access to banking services, including a cash machine, four days a week. Sounds like an interesting solution that’s not a million miles away from your cashpoints on trains idea 🙂

The news story is here: https://www.thelocal.de/20180221/in-rural-germany-mobile-banking-means-a-bank-on-a-truck

@ldeitz, there is also mobile banking in the UK, and mobile post offices, giving access to basic banking facilities (and cash). Other solutions than ATMs are available. They could put ATMs on stations? Probably do.

Shortage of train crew? They must be employing dwarves now. Is Snow White running the service?

I do feel sorry for everyone who is messed around, especially in the recent weather.

Snow White went into suspended animation………… Train crews are just as likely as the rest of us to have difficulty getting to work. Snow and ice on the electrified 3rd rail in much of the south can be a real problem. We were warned only to travel if it was really necessary. Spare a thought for those who use the roads – did they all need to venture out? Maybe we should decide to heed such advice.

In the wrong topic 🙁 Did the snow and ice disrupt getting to an ATM and were they properly serviced? (a weak way out).

wavechange – please mind your language on here. In these PC times, please stay Sharpe and say “persons of restricted growth”.

I would hope they are given the same opportunities as everyone else. Presumably Snow White would run Virgin Trains.

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Derek – I thought that we had moved away from descriptions that highlight personal limitations are best avoided, so Snow White’s dwarves would be described as having different abilities – especially with high shelves.

Sorry, Duncan. We need to try and make sure we’re on topic and also please try and make sure your comments aren’t offensive to others. You’re welcome to share your opinion on Convo, but please be mindful of other commenters too. Thanks 🙂

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When Lauren mentioned using her phone on the train I assumed that we were in the Convo on the challenges of winter train travel, compensation, etc, hence the reference to Snow White. Sorry. 🙁

I think it was Lauren took us off topic, but best not say anything 🙂

And Duncan, of course there are more young male suicides in jails . That’s because we lock up more of our people then any other Western democracy and most of them are men. But this – as with your comment – is off topic in here, so perhaps you’d care to move it to the Lobby?

Yes, I’m sorry for leading you astray here. But can we please get back on topic. The Lobby is the best place for off-topic discussions. Thank you 🙂

What have the banks done with all the savings in staff time and costs following the introduction of cash points 40 odd years ago? It was all about providing a better service to customers. Customers seem to have become an inconvenience these days.

‘Free’ current accounts and longer opening hours are two things that come to mind, plus a more relaxed attitude to overdrawing. ATM’s are accessible 24 hours a day and servicing them probably costs quite a bit.

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This new convo is only so Which? can claim another 300+ people support their campaign. The fact that most of them probably already posted the same thing on the previous half a dozen or so convos is irrelevant.

But I do like the calmly worded and utterly dispassionate headline: Getting rid of cashpoints is ripping apart communities

Really? The picture of devastated villages, children sleeping in the road, old people fed into the combine because the ATM’s been removed somehow doesn’t ring exactly true.

Hi Alfa, this seems a tad unfair as that’s not what we do. We simply shared with you all an article that was written an published in The Telegraph last week as we want to continue the conversation on the impact of removing easy access to cash from different communities. We’re really keen to hear more on individual’s experiences with cashpoint removals. We’re especially encouraged by the incentives to keep cashpoints for communities that will be cut off, but we need to hear more from these communities and how it will affect them. We’re speaking to people on various channels and one of those is convo.

Sorry Lauren, but this convo did seem over the top and I think we just await another flood of verbal assault.

If you Google ‘cash point stolen’ it might give you a clue why many village cash points are disappearing especially when they are on the wall of a building that can also be someone’s home. Bank robberies can also be why small local banks are closing.

How many small communities have anywhere locally to spend much cash? Not having had a house phone until the mid-80s when most cash points were in town centres, I managed to keep in contact with people and organise enough cash in my pocket.

These convos sometimes make me wonder how on earth we survived!!!

Ld Elon says:
4 March 2018

Force bank accounts then the sneaky creep tribal charges, be placed and going up.
Time to destroy the banks and the people that run them.

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I can think of far more reasons why people might want to move to a city. Loss of an ATM would not be on that list. That is, if this were ever to happen. We don’t have a local ATM and never have, and it would have absolutely no influence on my choice of habitat.

Ideally we’d see the reduction in the number of atms in cities, in order to better serve communities that have none, too few or have only ones that charge.

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Not just you duncan, I couldn’t log in to it either. 🙁

Well, if you include cashpoints that are closing due to the branch closures then yes. My dad has banked at the same branch for over 70 years, yes he is that old. So to show my displeasure I’m opening an account with a new bank and closing accounts with the 2 banks that are closing branches.

Why must all; commercially-provided ATM’s be totally “free”? If the choice were to remove an unprofitable ATM, or to retain it with a very small charge for each transaction, what would people choose?

I said at the outset that I was not opposed to a small charge, but why does every ATM have to be profitable? It does not, and all that’s necessary is that the organisation can make an adequate profit.

So you would not object to a small charge at an ATM under threat? I wish Which? would have a similarly open mind when they discuss these issues. To my mind, the problem is accessing cash, for which there are a number of possibilities, not to be solved by only retaining all ATMs.

I don’t understand your great interest in rural ATMs, Malcolm. You chose to live in an area without one. I hope you are not envious. 😉

I don’t really understand your concern. I do live in a rural area and we do have one. It is just not within walking distance – in fact the one I use (rarely, but last Saturday) is about 5 miles distant. Nonetheless, no one should surely refrain from commenting simply because they may not have direct involvement with an issue. Convos are about making comments and constructive contributions. 🙂

I was simply curious, nothing more.

I would welcome a large charge as I never use the ***** things Another reason for banks closing ATMs ? That’s where you used to go for cash your bank

Isnt this issue more about egos than folks having to make alternate independent arrangements for paying cash in hand for small jobs around the house?

Our village faced exactly this problem a couple of years ago and the locals campaigned against the only 2 remaining banks closure, including the one and only ATM. Result – both banks are now closed but the ATM remains as the Estate Agent next to it has knocked through and extended into what used to be the bank and it is still free to use. My window cleaner turned up unexpectedly early last month but had no hesitation in accepting a cheque in payment. I am sure my gardener and myself would be able to come to some amicable arrangement for payment if necessary when he returns to cut the grass in a few weeks time.

I don’t really think it appropriate to expect Which.co.uk to solve all local issues when they are perfectly solvable by local people themselves with a little community spirit and strong resolve.

It hasn’t entirely gone unnoticed on previous occasions however, following a PVS comment, blame, frustration and egotistical disparaging innuendos seem to be the name of the game and hence cloud the issue, resulting in the debate then losing all its credibility,

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Duncan: you don’t have a monopoly on care or suffering, and the insinuation that you’re the only one who lives in ‘the real world’ is insulting to Beryl. And your argument above doesn’t really relate to the availability of ATMs.

Maybe a little more action instead of constant blaming and shaming wouldn’t go amiss, which is what our village did Duncan – but you seem to have missed the point entirely!

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The point being Duncan do you have or have ever had access to an ATM? If not, why not and why don’t you start a campaign locally? Actions speak much louder than words! Our village shop also recently acquired a new cash dispenser so now we have two 🙂 🙂

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I’m happy to support a campaign if there is a threat that our village may lose its ATM. Our parish council is at present focusing on minor matters including improvements to the village pond and the usual concerns about tree management, but I’m told it was very vocal in the successful opposition to tracking in close proximity to the village.

As Duncan points out you can try and still be unsuccessful but it is always worth trying.

You can still have an ATM without a bank. One of the local businesses could have installed one on their premises with sufficient support from local inhabitants.

That’s what we have, Beryl – a small ATM in the village shop.

Touché Wavechange! We have one also in the village shop. Now we need to hang on to the village shop?

I’ll be doing my best. Ours is officially open from 7am to 8pm but I’ve been in there later.

Did you mean “fracking” wavechange?

Surely this should be about access to cash, not just about ATMs and I’m not sure where egos fit in. My interest (it has been challenged) is in how any area can get access to cash, from whatever source. As Beryl says a community that feels strongly can try to solve this problem for themselves, perhaps by petitioning the ATM provider, making a small contribution if that would keep their existing ATM, or by looking at arranging other sources of cash whether, for example, from the local shops or pub (who no doubt all want people to have cash), fuel station, post office (fixed or travelling and so on.

It would be useful if we had other proposals made rather than continually focusing on one specific method – and, incidentally, still all based on speculation as to what may never happen, at least not to the extent being pushed at us.

Change is often painful Malcolm and more so the older we get. You either adapt to it and make the necessary adjustments or you sit and complain about it in the faint hope that things may somehow revert back to the past without any effort on your part. It’s then the ego attempts to take control – but only if you allow it.

As already explained, we managed to hang on to our free ATM but the compromise was the closure of the two remaining banks so cash is not a problem for us at the moment. The appearance of more and more supermarket delivery vans in the immediate area is indicative of an increase in online shopping.

Anyone who has an elderly relative who has trouble getting to grips with computers can shop online for them and have it delivered to their own address. I did this recently for a disabled relative who was too unwell with a chest infection to shop and so a next day delivery assured him of plentiful supplies, with a few extra treats thrown in for good measure and oh! some soothing cough drops to help him sleep 🙂

I agree change is difficult, even when younger. It brings us face to face with the unknown. We had a new MD join our company who said “I’m going to change things just for the sake of it, it’ll do people good”. It ignored the reasons things were as they were, and that they might be improved or modified selectively rather than totally discarded. He didn’t last, as it happened.

But things do change, and we do have to adapt. and whilst I sympathise with loss of familiar services like banks, ATMs, I think we have to open our minds to the alternatives and how they might work for us, before we descend into despair. Keep a constructive approach. 🙂

I think that what is required is a far-sighted approach to many potential problems.

Which? might be expected to be the natural for ths kind of thinking but if anything seems to be quite reactive. It also seems to look ahead to what legislative changes and reports are due in the next few months so it can be ready when they are made public. This would not be a problem apart from the level of response is rarely deep and sometimes sensationalist.

The idea that more payment per withdrwal is aimed at rural cashpoints and less in towns seems very sensible. It almost seems if either Which? has the wrong end of the stick in joining FRSB or it has badly or in fact not explained why the intended change is not going to improve the rural ATM economics.

As to waht gets into Conversations –

The Charity Commission have launched a consultation on the intertwining of charities and the commercial entities they own, and others they engage with. This is probably a reaction to the £1.7m payment to an off-shoot of the Motability charity and possibly Which?’s earlier payment of a bonus of £2.24m to four executives.

So we have the challenge of seeing whether this charity can forward further and highlight issues, possibly by using think tank output, and also how currently it chooses issues and the membership does not. I am sure many people in the UK were outraged by the £1.7m and how it was allowed to happen but it is not a Conversation that we are likely to see.

I voted to leave because I have no desire to be governed by rules made by barely competent politicians that really do not have our interests foremost on their agenda.
Over the years our fishing grounds have been exploited by continental fishermen, notable Spanish, so it is important that we reestablish a degree of control.

The ‘last bank’ and its cashpoint (Nat West) is due to close in Battle, East Sussex in a few months’ time, which will clearly make shopping difficult for everyone and banking deposits for people and businesses more remote and cumbersome. The local economy will obviously suffer when both locals and tourists are unable to access cash for purchases at shops and food and drink establishments, where cash is often the preferred payment method. As is the case in so many other locations, the population in Battle is growing older and the ability of elderly people to just ‘jump in a car’ and drive to another town is limited. Both the elderly and others have literally invested their retirement and futures in Battle and similar towns, because they were attracted by the ready availablity of essential facilities. At the same time we are regularly told how much banks care about the communities they serve, yet I see little evidence of it. I am now just waiting for the arrival of those mercenary cash points which rip off the elderly and others with charges of £1, £2, or worse per withdrawal – all masquerading in the name of ‘convenience’ of course.

It was the banks that introduced cash points in the first place. Now they are reversing the policy just to save themselves money and increase profit.
Unfortunately this policy of profit being the overriding objective seems to be a common theme for all these major corporations now. The customer and quality of service is low on the priority list.