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  1. ITV Report

Fears grow over access to cash as 250 free ATMs disappear per month

There has been a 1,300 fall in the number of free-to-use ATMs between the end of January and the start of July. Photo: PA

Fears have been raised over access to cash as figures suggest free-to-use ATMs are vanishing at an “alarming” rate of more than 250 per month.

Cash machine network Link released figures showing a 1,300 fall in the number of free-to-use ATMs between the end of January and the start of July, taking the total to 53,200.

Link say machines are closing at a time when cash use is declining and the vast majority of closures have been in busy, concentrated areas.

However, there is cause for concern for some.

“The rate at which free-to-use cashpoints are closing is alarming", according to Jenni Allen, managing director of Which? Money.

She said the regulator “must now urgently intervene to stop further closures and ensure that no more consumers are suddenly stripped of their access to cash”.

Are we moving towards a cashless society? Credit: PA
  • Why is it alarming?

76 out of 2,365 protected free-to-use ATMs closed between the start of February and July.

A protected ATM is one that is more than a kilometre from any other, and its existence helps to maintain access to cash in remote areas.

Of the 76 closed ATMs, 43 have a free Post Office cash over the counter service within a kilometre and 12 have no public access, due to being within a closed company site, for example.

The remaining 21 would leave no alternative cash access and these are under investigation.

Link say subsidies to open new ATMs will be provided if closures have left a cash access issue.

76 protected free-to-use ATMs closed between the start of February and July. Credit: PA
  • What do policymakers think?

Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Treasury Committee, acknowledged “these protected ATMs will represent the only feasible means of accessing cash for many people, so this is a worrying trend.”

She is supported by David Clarke, head of policy at campaign group Positive Money, who believes closures “risk leaving whole communities without access to cash, harming the over two million people who are wholly reliant on cash for their day-to-day shopping”.

Link say the vast majority of closures have been in busy, concentrated areas. Credit: PA
  • Will we have to start paying to use ATMs?

Link previously confirmed it would go ahead with proposals to cut the fees operators receive from banks when ATMs are used.

It announced a phased reduction in fees and the first cut came into force on July 1, with a second due in January.

A third reduction, due in January 2020, was cancelled after a fall in the volume of ATM transactions, and a fourth due in January 2021 has been put on hold pending a review next year.