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Brits charged £100m to access own cash as free ATMs shrink

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Consumers were charged more than £100m in fees to withdraw their own cash last year as near 9,000 free ATMs have vanished from the high street since January 2018.

The amount paid by shoppers to withdraw their own money jumped £29m to £104m last year, figures obtained by campaign group Which? revealed.

However, in the last two years, more than 8,700 free cash points have closed, saving banks £120m, according to the Link network.

Between 2018 and 2019, the percentage of fee-charging machines jumped 37% (from 11,120 to 15,277) and they now comprise a quarter of the entire network of 60,291 machines.

This means countless communities are having to pay up to £2 each time they want to withdraw their money, even on small amounts such as £10.

Which said ATM network changes have seen the number of times people have had to pay to withdraw cash increase from 46 million in 2018 to 73 million in 2019 – a rise of 59% in year.

Banks are also saving vast sums through branch closures, with 1,203 having closed since January 2018 alone. These ongoing closures have drastically reduced people’s ability to access free withdrawals across the UK, the group said.

‘Sheer mismanagement of cash landscape’

Which? warned in 2017 that cuts to the way cashpoints are funded would lead to a rapid reduction in access to free withdrawals across the country.

And deprived areas are losing free cash machines at a faster rate than the more affluent areas of the UK.

While digital banking has brought benefits to consumers, it said it’s crucial that the transition is better managed to ensure all those still reliant on cash aren’t forced to pay just to access it.

Which? is calling on the government to intervene with legislation that protects free access to cash for as long as it is needed.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “Massive cuts to the UK’s bank branch and cash machine networks have been highly lucrative for the big banks – but highly costly for millions of consumers. Entire communities have been cut off from cash or forced to pay hefty fees to access their own money.

“Banks must take greater responsibility for ensuring customers are supported to make the transition to digital if branches close and that those who are reliant on cash are not left behind by changes to the banking landscape.

“The Budget is a major opportunity for the government to introduce much-needed legislation that protects access to cash and free withdrawals for as long as this vital payment method is needed.”