1,700 free ATMs converted to fee-charging between January and March
Figures from Link – obtained by the consumer group – show 1,250 of these ATMs became fee-charging in March alone.
Most of the ATMs affected are operated by Cardtronics, the UK’s biggest cashpoint operator.
The firm has said is likely to convert a further thousand machines to charge fees in the coming months.
Notemachine, another major cashpoint provider, has also warned it is considering converting up to 4,000 machines in its 7,000-strong network to charge fees.
That would mean the UK would lose more than one in 10 of its free cashpoints in a matter of months.
Which? found that ATM charges ranged from 50p up to £1.99.
More than four fifths of people surveyed by the consumer groups said they would no longer use a cashpoint that had converted to fee-charging.
While digital payments are on the rise in the UK, there is still real appetite across the UK for access to cash, with 2.2 million people almost entirely reliant on cash in their daily lives.
Which? is warning that without regulatory action the UK risks drifting into a no-cash society that could shut people out of paying for local goods and services.
Anita Brakewell, 54 from Blackpool, told Which?: “Being disabled means I don’t have the option of walking to the next free cash machine, so these charges shut me out of cash that’s important to my daily life. My town has also suffered from bank branch closures, making it hard to access the cash and financial services I need.”
The findings follow the Access to Cash Review, published in March, which said the UK’s cash infrastructure was “on the verge of collapse”.
Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “Communities are being stripped of free access to cash at an alarming rate that could hit the most vulnerable in our society the hardest, while denying millions of people free withdrawals.
“A regulator is desperately needed to get a grip of these rapid changes across the cash landscape and ensure all those still reliant on this important payment method aren’t suddenly shut out from accessing the cash they need in their daily lives.”
The consumer champion is calling on Government to appoint a regulator to protect consumers and businesses from these rapid changes.