/ 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?

Comments

If cash points close, along with Banks disappearing, perhaps money growing on trees will become a reality?
Isn’t it about time these large, (badly run) organisations started to listen more to their customers, or are they keen to see the “bartering economy” grow, which has been popular in some communities from the ages of our early ancestors?

Bank profits go up, service goes down and computers run the show!
Impersonal and inconsiderate banking.
More bank staff will be made redundant.
So who is allowed to make these decisions?

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We can’t lose our free-to-use cashpoints. Over two million people in the UK rely almost entirely on cash, but a change to interchange fees could see the closure of up to 30,000 free-to-use cash machines.“. Thus begins an email from Which? asking me to sign a petition to stop this.

Then I find a document from LINK issued 2 months ago that begins as follows and spells out, in detail, what they are doing.

Have Which? not read this document ? Or have I overlooked something crucial?

THE LINK BOARD ANNOUNCES CHANGES TO OPERATION OF ITS ATM NETWORK
For issue at 7am on Wednesday 31st January 2018
The Board of LINK, which manages the country’s main ATM network, has today announced a series of measures designed to maintain the nationwide network of free ATMs.
LINK is determined to defend the free ATM network and the consumers who rely on it. LINK will use its new powers as a regulated not-for-profit company with a clear public interest objective to reform interchange (the payment that card issuers make to ATM operators for every transaction), which is currently at unsustainably high levels. This will include implementing a strengthened Financial Inclusion Programme to protect every community across the UK from losing free ATM access. Consumers can be assured that LINK will maintain their access to free ATMs for years to come. The impact is expected to be a modest decline in the number of ATMs in areas where they are heavily concentrated but with no diminution in the overall geographical coverage.

https://www.link.co.uk/media/1355/h-documents-uploads-link-interchange-consultation-announcement-31-january-2018.pdf

Odd how compassionate they feel about ATM users, but apparently not about email users.

Someone doesn’t like information being posted. 🙁
There’s no money in emails, Ian.

Or in serving the consumer, apparently.

Peter V-S: Which? press release today:
Scottish consumers still dependent on free-to-use ATMs amid threat to network
2 May 2018
People and businesses in Scotland are still heavily reliant on free-to-use ATMs, as changes to the LINK network threaten to cut off free access to cash for thousands of people across the country, Which? research has found.
“.
No mention by Which? of the LINK report that suggests otherwise. Why is that?
https://www.link.co.uk/media/1355/h-documents-uploads-link-interchange-consultation-announcement-31-january-2018.pdf

I have little trust in the industry that has already withdrawn ATMs in many rural areas and unless Link offers some sort of guarantee that further ones will be retained, this report does not allay my fears.

The report is information that I believe Which? should reference to add balance, instead of continually trying to cause panic. I just ask for objective and fair reporting from a consumers’ organisation so we can make our own minds up .

Perhaps you would link to where ATMs have been lost on a large scale.

The LINK report says:
A strengthened Financial Inclusion Programme that will ensure that all communities retain free access to cash. This will be without financial constraint and LINK will do whatever it takes to retain free access to cash for all communities. All existing free ATMs that are one kilometre or more from the next free ATM will be exempt from reductions in interchange. In addition, a premium of up to 30p (up from 10p now) will also be paid wherever needed to ensure that free ATMs remain in areas that could not otherwise sustain them.
• A one-kilometre criterion will be used to identify areas that will receive the premium. This will be applied flexibly to reflect actual travel distances on the ground, and problems with specific vulnerable communities where the one kilometre distance is too far. This will specifically include where closure of a bank branch is leading to a financial inclusion problem.
• LINK will set up publicly available monitoring on its website of every area of the country showing free ATM availability, and highlight any areas where free ATM availability is lost. This will allow clear and proactive action to be taken by LINK to retain free ATM access and for all stakeholders to have confidence that this is happening.

I can only relay what is said by LINK. Perhaps others have evidence that this is duplicitous. Otherwise I’d prefer to see progress monitored and ensure their promises to protect rural ATMs are kept, than condemn them out of hand before the event.

I’d still question whether everyone, however remote, should have access to a free ATM if other facilities could be used to dispense cash, such as cooperating pubs, shops, post offices, mobile banks. I do not see why we should insist on retaining a particular service on principle when practical alternatives might exist. A pragmetic approach seems much more appropriate.

I presume that the press release has been timed to coincide with the parliamentary debate. Maybe we do need some panic now that so many ATMs have already gone.

That does not excuse what should be a responsible organisation from presenting a balanced view. I can buy a red top to get sensational news. I subscribe to Which? in the hope I’ll get objectivity.

Equally, the press release does not reference information about the large number of ATMs that have been removed in the past few years. That’s a fact and the Link document is merely plans that may or may not be realised. Would it not be good to support Which? when they are trying to help consumers?

“Would it not be good to support Which? when they are trying to help consumers?” You want me to support it if their might be incomplete, inaccurate or biased reporting? I support Which?, as I have said many times, but I have also asked that Which? is balanced, fair and objective in what it says, and does not refrain from giving its subscribers and readers relevant information. What is wrong with that?

I don’t know what has happened to ATMs over the last few years – perhaps you would provide links (no pun intended 🙂 ). But as the reductions in LINK fees (phased over the next 4 years) have not yet happened presumably we cannot use that as the reason. The thrust of this Convo started with “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.” which is what the January LINK report suggests is not going to happen.

Many of the ATMs have gone when bank branches have closed and no alternative arrangements have been made. Maybe I imagined the branch closures.

As I have explained before, the introductions are there to promote discussion and for us to provide whatever information is needed and balance. Where incorrect statements have been made in Conversation introductions they have often been corrected.

In its campaigns, Which? is attempting to gain support, so focusing on what needs to be done. When a company advertises a product or service they don’t point out the disadvantages or that better alternatives might be available elsewhere.

Bruno Noble says:
7 May 2018

Inconvenience is not the worst of it. On 18 September 2015 the Bank of England’s chief economist said (when addressing Northern Ireland’s chamber of commerce), under the heading, ‘Negative interest rates on currency’, “A… proposal… would be… abolishing paper currency.” (“Scrap cash altogether, says Bank of England’s chief economist” was the Financial Times’ headline.) But he’s not the first – if I recall correctly, the Swedish Riksbank said the same in 2014, pointing out how useful it would be to be able to force the consumer to spend by ensuring it could destroy the value of their savings by means of negative interest rates. (With no cash, you can only keep/lose your money in the bank or spend it.) The first step of a slippery slope…

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The government has, in my view, always had control of the money supply although often in rather crude ways.

As far as negative interest rates go, many (most) people have some money on deposit or in current accounts, so negative interest rates will affect them even now. Maybe more of their money might be put into stocks and shares, or bonds if that were to happen?

There has been talk of a cashless society for years and I see it no nearer becoming a reality. But cash is itself of no intrinsic value – bits of paper and cheap metal discs. So regarding it as wealth can be a little illusory; inflation can heavily damage it.

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Tangible assets that others will always need is perhaps the ultimate answer. For those who can afford it, land perhaps, or housing. Gold itself is a bit illusory – essential for some industrial uses so real value there, but so much is stored as jewellery and that is of limited value – you can get the look with plate and paste. Art is even more dodgy – no intrinsic value at all (but I don’t mean it is valueless).

Most people save money because it is liquid – can be turned into something you want instantly. What other ways are there to store wealth that is as secure as possible?

Hi, if I had not needed to have a look at my email I would no have known about this petition.
Could not WHICH let us all know by ordinary email of the différent petitions they have. Thank you very much. M b

Helen Spedding-Lowe says:
1 June 2018

Free cash point? I wish!! In our village theres a cash point machine in the Spar shop which charges £1.65 per withdrawal. Our only other option is the local post office, but it clises at 5ish. So if I need cash in the evening I have to pay to draw out my own money. As a non driver, and someone who has mobility problems I’m stuck unless my husband can drive me 5 miles to the next town.

As I do not altogether trust exposed cash points, I try to use inside ones in banks or failing that, our local shop and supermarket are happy to do cash-back. I have never heard of any issues with cash-back, any other views would be interesting.

I only use a cashpoint inside my bank, never an outside one, as I feel the inside cashpoints are more secure with staff keeping an eye on them and dealing with anything and anyone that looks a bit dodgy. Criminals are getting away with a lot of frauds using electronic gadgets and I feel external cashpoints are more open to this kind of fraud, also people are more likely to robbed when drawing money from an external cashpoint. If my bank closes in my area I will have to change banks, but if they all move to internet banking only, as things seem to be moving to and the only cash machines around are in or outside supermarkets and similar businesses, I don’t know where I will be able to draw money and deposit cheques, as I won’t use them, not with the amount of crime, poor policing and lack of deterrents in the Britain of today.

My feelings are echoed by most people I suspect…just another cutback in services to maintain a high profit margin by greedy banks & Share holders alike !!.

What can anyone say to this when the vast majority of us behave like sheep??, we just except anything and are reluctant to challenge authoritarianism, one person alone will achieve nothing but a community could achieve great changes!!.

We deserve it I suppose…I mean, if you won’t fight back…what else can you expect??!.

I’ll just keep stashing my money in the mattress!!.

I am very fortunate and have a choice of Cash Points, but I still support all those that are unable to find any where they live.

I am disabled, the nearest cash point is 1/2 a mile away, a 1mile round trip, so that makes that an imposable journey for me to walk without taking loads of supplies and medication prior to leaving home and half a day to do it in at least. A bus trip would cost me £6 return so that shatters the myth of a free cash withdrawal and then there is driving there now that would be great as long as you don’t get caught out, by there being no money in the nearest cash machine! The next nearest is 2miles away, that rules out walking altogether, the bus then becomes expensive and it would mean a trip to the nearest major town and a bus transfer there and back just to get to the cash point if it works or the shop that it may be in is open for business. My valley town used to have all the major banks on the high street. now not one bank is in the valley, you can’t even tax your car in any of the valley Post Offices as they have all closed or have been opened up in small shops and have only basic Post Office abilities.

Bryonie says:
1 June 2018

We simply don’t have one within walking distance. The nearest is 2+ miles away and carries a charge to use.

At the present time there are 3 remaining cash points in my area (about 1 mile distant)
one of which has been put in by a local takeaway establishment for the benefit of their
customers. This is an idea which could be taken up by other restaurants and
retail establishments. (No sure if there is charge for withdrawals).

Yesterday a very busy popular bank Nat West closed in Bawtry.
It was always busy and you always had to queue .
They have left one Cash point instead of the 2 that existed until yesterday.It is a national disgrace that RBS have been allowed to close this branch.In a busy town there is one cash point at the now closed bank and one cash point at the local Sainsbury’s.
Next we will find ourselves being charged to have access to your own money .Why do we continue to accept this attitude of the banks .RBS were quick to take 45? Billions of tax payers money yet feel no responsibility to offer a service to their customers.

I am lucky that I have the use of four cashpoints in my nearest town Whittlesey. I would dread the day if they all shut down.

We only have one cash point in Presteigne, one was vandalised and never been replaced.

In Brill, a fair sized village near Aylesbury we have just one cashpoint in a shop and so not accessable at all when the shop is closed. The machine also charges, and it is around 10 miles to the next nearest.

Worth a look in Long Crendon perhaps – 4 miles – which seems to have ATM, post office, possibly HSBC? Are they still there?

We had three cashpoints in Elton until recently. The supermarket had the one in its store removed following a refit, the post office closed and so we are left with one at the newsagents. If that goes we will have to travel three miles to the next closest at a local garage. Easy for the mobile amongst us but not good for the older folk. Banks don’t care any more about customers. Our problems are not their concern. Profit, greed and executive bonuses is what it’s all about these days.

We only have the one cashpoint now that the garage has gone, this is at the local coop, the beauty of this is that it is always under the watchful eye of staff, the bad point is that once the shop is closed you cannot get any money out. Having said this, it cannot be vandalised, and as we are a village, there are few people needing money after ten pm in this area, most are old age pensioners who tend to lock there doors at six pm and sit and watch the tv.

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