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Free-to-use cash machines disappearing at 'alarming rate'

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Free-to-use cash machines disappearing at 'alarming rate'

An “unprecedented number” of free-to-use ATMs started charging customers at the beginning of 2019, according to Which?

The consumer watchdog said figures from Link, the UK’s largest cash machine network, show that more than 1,250 free machines switched to charging a fee in March alone, with the ATMs now charging a minimum of 95p for accessing accounts.

The figures show around 1,700 cashpoints were converted to pay-to-use in the first three months of 2019.

Releasing the figures, Which? warned the trend “could hit the most vulnerable in our society the hardest”.

The move follows a cut in the fee banks pay operators each time an ATM is used, with Cardtronics and NoteMachine – the two largest operators – suggesting they have identified a further 5,000 free-to-use machines that could be switched to fee-charging in the coming months.

NoteMachine, which operates 7,000 cash machines across the UK, said it was considering introducing fees at up to 4,000 of its machines following the cut in the interchange rate.

Chief executive Peter McNamara said: “Unless urgent action is taken to reduce the pressure on ATM operators by reversing the interchange fee reductions, NoteMachine will be forced to begin converting ATMs to surcharging.”

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: "Communities are being stripped of free access to cash at an alarming rate that could hit the most vulnerable in our society the hardest, while denying millions of people free withdrawals.

"A regulator is desperately needed to get a grip of these rapid changes across the cash landscape and ensure all those still reliant on this important payment method aren't suddenly shut out from accessing the cash they need in their daily lives."

After peaking at around 54,500 machines towards the end of 2017, free-to-use cashpoint numbers have been in constant decline.

But despite the rise of digital payments, around 2.2 million people are almost entirely reliant on cash in their daily lives.

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