Millions of Brits who rely on hard cash to pay for groceries and bills are facing hardship following the closure of thousands of hole-in-the-wall machines.
Consumer watchdog Which? has revealed between June and December 2018, an “alarming rate” of cashpoints were axed, with 488 ATMS scrapped every month.
According to its research, the last six months of 2018 saw almost 3,000 cashpoints disappear with half of those free-to-use machines. And over the course of the year, 102 “protected machines” in remote areas were also scrapped with access to cash further affected by 3,314 banks closing their doors since 2015.
It found that a fifth of households were around two miles from their nearest bank yet almost three-quarters of Brits used cash “frequently”. The survey revealed almost two-thirds did not want to see notes and coins disappear from daily transactions and more than half had been in a situation where only cash payments were taken. But data from cash machine network Link revealed cash machine withdrawals fell sharply in some parts of the country with London down by 8.5% and the South East by 7.7% between 2017-18.
The North West, Scotland and Wales were down by 3.1% and Northern Ireland by 2.1%. Which? said while digital payments were increasing there was “still real appetite across the country for access to cash from consumers and businesses alike”.
There are 63,300 ATMs in the UK of which 11,100 carry a fee to use, figures from Link reveal. Most are concentrated in towns and city centres with 80% said to be within 300 metres of another cashpoint.
In a statement, Link said: “As payment habits continue to change and more customers shop online or use contactless cards, the UK needs to work out how to maintain cash access, including from ATMs and also from other outlets such as the Post Office and from retailers’ tills. “Link’s Financial Inclusion Programme is key to ensuring that the UK’s cash infrastructure continues to deliver free access to cash for consumers regardless of the marked decline in cash usage.”
Next month an independent Access to Cash review will reveal its findings and recommendations on ATM use and “cash access requirements over the next five to fifteen years”.