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Link promises fee-free cash access on every UK high street

Written by: Emma Lunn
Cash machine network Link has pledged to protect free ATMs on every high street in the UK.

Every UK retail centre with five or more shops will be guaranteed a free-to-use ATM under a scheme launched by UK cash machine network Link.

Funded by the UK’s main banks and building societies, money will be made available so that should a high street be threatened with the loss of an ATM or Post Office, Link would step in to install a fee-free cash machine.

According to Which?, the last six months of 2018 saw about 3,000 cash machines disappear from high streets, while 1,250 free cash machines switched to charging a fee during March 2019 alone.

In March, the independent Access to Cash Review said the UK is not ready to go cashless and set out a series of measures necessary to ensure no one is left behind as the UK moves towards an increasingly cashless society.

Link said the new move is to make sure that ATMs – which it describes as a “vital part” of the UK’s cash infrastructure – are protected.

The network will also directly commission free-to-use ATMs in communities with poor access to cash. Over the coming months ATMs will be installed in Battle, East Sussex; Bungay, Suffolk; Hill Top in Nuneaton; Tywyn in Wales; and Durness in Scotland. The locations will form a restricted trial that will run through 2020.

John Howells, Link CEO, said: “LINK is determined to defend free access to cash across the UK in the face of very rapidly declining cash use. Today’s action will protect consumers whilst much needed industry reforms to move to a more sustainable utility infrastructure take place.”

To qualify for ATM protection, a high street or retail centre must have five or more qualifying retailers. Qualifying retailers means most shops and retailers other than those such as cash and carry and restaurants.

‘Free access to cash’ means a free ATM or Post Office counter within 1km of the mid-point of the retail centre.

There are currently about 6,500 retail centres like this in the UK, with only about 10 having no free access to cash. Link will run a competitive procurement process to have ATMs installed in these locations during 2019. In the future, any retail centre which loses free access to cash will have it replaced by Link via a competitive procurement process.

Gareth Shaw, head of Money at Which?, said: “This long-overdue action on cash machines is hugely welcome – but these measures on their own are unlikely to be enough to stem the tide of ATM closures that has left communities across the UK struggling to access cash.

“The government’s new access to cash strategy group must urgently explore all options – including legislation – to ensure a robust system is in place to preserve free access to cash for as long as people need it.”

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