Communities are losing access to cash machines and the problem is set to get worse, according to research from Which?.
The consumer group found that more than 200 communities across Britain have “poor ATM provision” or no cash machine at all.
Which? says 123 postcode districts in the UK with a combined population of 110,935 people do not have a single cash machine in the area, forcing consumers to make long trips to neighbouring towns or villages to access cash. A further 116 postcodes have just one ATM, 37 of which charge a fee to the user.
Cash machine access is particularly poor in rural communities, which has been further pronounced by the closure of many local banking branches. The postcode with the largest number of people not served by a cash machines was found to be PE32 in Norfolk, with a population of 15,294. Other postcodes with particularly poor access include: TA7, Somerset (14,982), TN27, Kent (12,404), NR16, Norfolk (11,953), and YO13, North Yorkshire (10,111).
Proposed changes to the ATM network will make the situation even worse Which? says.
LINK, the largest cash machine network provider in the UK is consulting on dropping the fees banks pay ATM hosts per ATM withdrawal by 20% - from 25p per withdrawal to 20p per withdrawal.
But if ATM hosts get paid less, they may be less incentivised to continue offering cash machines. Which? warns it could lead to a mass closure of free-to-use ATMs across the country. Cardtronics, the largest ATM operator, adds that while it doesn’t believe busy high streets will be affected, it does think rural communities will suffer the most.
LINK says the proposed changes are a result of a predicted fall in consumers’ demand for cash for payments as they increasingly move to alternatives such as contactless and online payments.
However, Nicky Morgan MP, chair of the Treasury Committee, has warned that “if there is a risk of unacceptable consumer detriment”, the Committee will consider taking oral evidence from LINK, individual banks, and independent ATM deployers.
Gareth Shaw, Which? Money expert adds: “Reducing the free-to-use ATM network would hit consumers who rely on access to cash machines hard.
“These proposals could place a strain on communities across the UK that are already struggling to access the cash they need following mass bank closures. The financial regulator must intervene to avoid this situation getting worse.”