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Free-to-use cash machines drop by a third in just five years

Free-to-use cash machines drop by a third in just five years
Matt Browning
Written By:
Matt Browning

The number of free-to-use cash machines in shops around the UK fell by a third in just five years, research reveals.

There are now just 37,836 ATMs that do not charge a fee, which is a drop from the more than 53,000 in operation during 2018, according to the Association of Convenience Store’s (ACS) ‘access to cash’ tracker.

Due to a rising number of bank branches and building societies closing down, many people rely on their local shops for ATM operators more than ever.

Usually, a fee from the customer’s bank – 26.5p per transaction – allows usage of the machines to remain free. However, with rising prices of operating the machines, like installation and equipment costs, many newsagents and off-licenses need to charge users to balance the books.

The Local Shop Report for 2023 found 40% of shops now have a free-to-use cash machine inside while over one in ten (12%) stores contain an ATM that’ll charge you for withdrawals.

ACS wants the Government to review the interchange fee between the bank and shops set by the company LINK, so it covers the operation and management of ATMs.

Choice cash should ‘not be taken out of customer hands’

James Lowman, the chief executive of ACS, said: “Cash is still an incredibly important payment method for millions of people in the UK and is used by many customers as a way of managing their money.

“Convenience stores play a vital role in providing customers with access to their cash, especially with the closure of bank branches in communities, but many members have told us that they are being forced to either remove or change their free-to-use ATMs because they’re just not financially viable. We have called on the Government to review the level of ATM interchange fees to ensure the long-term sustainability of the free-to-use ATM network.”

Craig Beaumont, chief of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It’s vital that cash remains an element of a competitive payments market, so consumers and businesses have choices.  This keeps a downward pressure on card fees.  We welcome ACS’s ATM monitor to help local communities, MPs and candidates keep track in their area.”

He added: “The choice should be for consumers and businesses to make, not have that decision taken out of their hands by removing their access to cash.”