Consumer group Which? says the communities might be hardest hit by proposals that could reduce the network.
It is worried that proposals from LINK – the UK’s largest cash machine network – to lower its fees by 20% could lead to mass closures of free-to-use ATM machines.
See also: Rural cash machine fears rejected
This would hit already suffering communities even harder.
The fee in question – currently set at around 25p – is paid by banks per withdrawal to maintain the free-to-use ATM network.
Pressure from banks
Which? is concerned that the proposals are driven by pressure from some banks to cut costs, rather than focusing on the needs of consumers.
It is calling for the Payment Systems Regulator to conduct an urgent market review to fully evaluate the impact of any proposed funding changes.
Which? Found that 123 postcode districts did not appear to contain a single ATM, making many consumers reliant on access in nearby villages or towns.
Meanwhile, a further 116 postcode districts appear to have just one ATM..
Which?’s research revealed a number of remote areas across the UK, where ATM provision is particularly low – with either poor, or no access at all.
These included the postcodes PE32, Norfolk (with 15,294 people); TA7, Somerset (14,982); TN27, Kent (12,404); NR16, Norfolk (11,953) and YO13, North Yorkshire (10,111).
With many rural areas already struggling to access cash after bank closures, LINK proposals could place further strain on these communities’ access to free-to-use ATMs.
LINK has said it will encourage operators to keep free machines and to protect free-to-use ATMs that are a kilometre or more from the next nearest free cash machine.
But Cardtronics, the biggest ATM operator in the UK, has said that those hit hardest would not be busy high streets, but ATMs in rural communities.
Hit consumers hard
Which? money expert Gareth Shaw said: “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.”
LINK said the UK had one of the world's largest free-to-use ATM networks – and the number of free machines was rising.
LINK chief executive John Howells said it would review all of the areas identified by Which? and take action if there was inadequate free ATM provision.
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