Fee-paying cash machines are a convenience for some, but can form part of a deeply unsatisfactory mixture of financial service provision on our high streets. Should we have to pay for the convenience?
When I’m out and I need some cash quickly, there’s nothing more reassuring than to hear the whirr of a cash machine doling out the dough. Reassuring, that is, until you get hit with the annoying pop-up message that ‘this machine will charge you £1.50 for this withdrawal’.
Charging for cash convenience
Then again, for the convenience that the machine provides, it’s not that awful to have to pay a little charge here and there, right? Perhaps. But these charges are no joke for the 300,000 of Britain’s poorest people now living more than 1km from the nearest free cashpoint.
For many of them, their local cash machine is a vital source of access to benefits or pensions and, if it charges, they’re the ones most likely to find it difficult to travel long distances to a free ATM due to mobility or transport problems.
High-cost credit on our high streets
The situation is slowly improving: the number of fee-paying ATMs decreased in 2013 by 135 to 20,260, while the number of free-to-use ATMs grew by 838 to a record 46,472 – around 70% of the network. Still, it’s a sign of today’s economy that certain – often poorer – parts of Britain are over-served by the same types of financial services, such as payday lenders and fee-paying cash machines. For those that rely on the local high street, this hardly represents top-drawer financial provision – but where else are they supposed to go?
Using fee-paying cash machines may not be as dangerous as payday loans. But, in combination with high-cost credit on our high streets, they are fast-becoming the indicator of poverty in the UK.