We’ve become used to the sight of bank branches slowly disappearing from the high street. Now could it be the turn of the free cashpoint?
There are over 70,000 cash machines in the UK, almost double the number there were 16 years ago, and over 53,000 of them are free to use.
But with cashpoint use apparently falling and plans to cut the fees they receive from banks, the ATM industry body is warning that some 10,000 free cashpoints could disappear from Britain’s high streets within four years.
Why could this happen?
Each time you take out cash, the ATM operator charges your card provider a small fee. But Link, the UK’s cash machine network, whose members include all the main debit card providers (your bank), is proposing to cut these fees by 20% over the next four years.
This could mean that some ATMs will either pass on the loss by charging customers to take out cash – as those machines you see in some convenience stores, railway stations and motorway services do – or disappear altogether.
Link’s chief executive, John Howells, has tried to provide reassurance, saying: ‘Extensive free access to cash is vital for consumers and we intend to maintain this for many years to come.’
From as far back as 2005, we’ve campaigned for everyone to be able to conveniently access and manage their own money without paying a charge.
That doesn’t mean that all ATMs should be free – you can have the choice of paying to use a convenient ATM, such as in a shop, but you shouldn’t have to go to unreasonable lengths, such as travelling a long distance, to take out money for free.
And being able to easily access your money without being charged is a subject that’s very close to your hearts, too. When the Royal Bank of Scotland and Natwest stopped allowing basic bank account holders to use rivals’ ATMs, our community reacted with anger.
‘This is just plain stupid. I’ve just come out of hospital and can’t drive. The cash machine that is a two-minute walk down the road now can not be used, so now my local cashpoint is two miles’ away.’
Sharon had a similar issue:
‘I live in a rural area of Cornwall and do not drive, and there are only two cashpoints five miles apart. It has become harder for me to get my money out, especially since the cash point has been out of order on several occasions.’
And our last convo on fee-charging ATMs also sparked some thoughtful debate, with Rwth expressing disgust at being charged to take out money:
‘I have always been very disgusted by fee charging ATMs and refuse to use them. For many years, I have managed without cash in many situations, and only carry small amounts at any one time. If possible, I pay with a credit or debit card. Some people just don’t have the opportunity to do without cash for transactions. I feel very sorry for their predicament.’
Meanwhile, malcolm r wondered how many people live more than 1km from their nearest cash machine, and others suggested cashback as an alternative.
Cash vs cashless
I, for one, avoid fee-charging ATMs, but I do still withdraw money from those that are free to use about twice a week, as I prefer to pay by cash to help me manage my budget. If having 10,000 fewer ATMs on the high street meant there wasn’t a free-to-use cashpoint near me when I needed it, I know I’d be livid about having to pay £1.50 or more every time I wanted to take out cash.
I accept that there’s been a growth in contactless payments, and cash machine withdrawals in general are declining. But we’re far from being a cashless society, and many people still rely on cash as their main, if not only, payment method.
Do you rely on your nearest ATM or do you pay for everything by contactless payment? Have you noticed ATMs disappearing from the high street already? What do you make of the proposals? Are banks simply trying to protect their profits, or are ATMs a relic of a different era?