Do you find yourself walking miles to track down a free cashpoint? Last night the BBC’s Rip Off Britain drew attention to areas forcing residents to use ATMs that charge to withdraw cash. Do you live in one of them?
Finding a ‘hole in the wall’ can be difficult enough. But when you do finally stumble upon one, discovering that it charges you a couple of quid to take out your money is a double whammy.
Despite what you might think, this is even a problem in London. High streets like Shoreditch often don’t have free-to-use cashpoints; instead you’re forced to pay a fee. That is unless you walk all the way to Old Street or Liverpool Street stations – both a good ten minutes on foot.
Last night, the BBC’s Rip Off Britain went North to the Liverpudlian towns of Anfield and Toxteth. Here, free-to-use cash machines have virtually disappeared. In fact, the Liverpool Echo worked out that 81% and 71% of cashpoints in Toxteth and Anfield respectively charge to take out money.
This compares to 34% of ATMs nationally. The residents on the show complained of 20-minute walks to track down a free ATM, where they’re being charged around £1.75.
Charged to take out your own cash
I’m not talking about banks’ cashpoints – these are generally free. I’m talking about the ATMs operated by companies like Cardpoint, YourCash and NoteMachine. You’ll find these on both the high street and in shops – in fact there are over 20,000 of these pay-to-use ATMs in the UK. Rip Off Britain estimates they bring in as much as £130m every year.
We were sent loads of complaints about pay-to-use ATMs when we took this debate to Twitter. Dan (@danthegooner) refuses to use them, with the one down the road from him charging a shocking £3. Rosie (@WiltshireWalker) tries and get cash back from a shop instead, adding that she ‘wouldn’t use those pay cashpoints out of principal’.
What if you don’t have a choice? Not all shops give cash back, and with post offices closing in many areas, not everyone has the chance to withdraw cash for free over post office counters.
A tax on poverty?
Liverpool councillor Paula Keaveney told Rip Off Britain about the problem in her city:
‘It’s a tax on poverty and if you look at areas of deprivation where people are on low incomes and they’re having to pay to get their own money out, all that’s happening is the problems are being made worse.’
Link, the company that runs much of the cash machine network, does think that there’s a case for pay-to-use machines, however all charging decisions lie with the individual members of the Link network, and not Link itself.
Still, with bank branches closing around the country, surely someone has to ensure that everyone has access to a free cashpoint, especially in deprived areas. Link’s CEO John Howells said that there ‘should not be any deprived areas in the UK which do not have a free-to-use ATM’ and they want help to track down any such locations.
So, do you find it difficult to find a free cashpoint in your area? How much are you charged to take out money? And should it be a privilege to gain access to your own cash?