Banks to be fined for not giving access to cash, as ATM group chief says law change 'just in time'

18 August 2023, 10:31

Banks will be fined for not giving access to cash
Banks will be fined for not giving access to cash. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Kit Heren

The head of a cashpoint network has welcomed a government pledge to fine banks for not providing free access to cash withdrawals.

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People and businesses should be no more than three miles away from a facility where they can withdraw or deposit cash, according to plans set out by the Treasury.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the financial services watchdog, will have the power to fine banks and building societies which don't maintain these standards.

John Howells, the head of ATM network Link, said the rule change was "good news and just in time".

He told LBC's Nick Ferrari: "We’ve seen a really worrying drop in free ATM numbers and bank branches on high streets right across the country, and we are not ready to go cashless yet.

Read more: 'Nothing short of discriminatory': Council slammed for introducing higher fees for drivers who pay for parking with cash

Read more: Thousands queue up as cash machines give out 'free' money by mistake in Ireland after major IT glitch

Cash is still important to millions of people in the UK
Cash is still important to millions of people in the UK. Picture: Alamy

"No matter what people say, most of us like using cash. Five million need to use cash, and what this new set of laws means that I think every high street will now be guaranteed free access to cash for many years to come, and it’s just in time.

Mr Howells added: "Every high street, large or small, will have a post office counter service, but critically I think it means that our major towns will have a bank branch.

"So even if your last bank branch closes, what these rules mean is that you will get a new shared bank branch run by all the banks.

"And I think that’s really important because it’s those bank branches that are a real loss to a town."

People walk past ATM cash point machines outside a branch of Barclays
People walk past ATM cash point machines outside a branch of Barclays. Picture: Alamy

Currently most people living in towns and cities can access deposit and withdrawal cash within a mile. This rises to about three miles in rural areas.

The Financial Conduct Authority should use its powers to maintain these standards, although it recognises that needs may differ by location and change over time.

If an ATM cashpoint or other facility is being closed, a new one should be put in place before the closure, the rules say.

The FCA has been given powers to protect the provision of cash access services, including without fees for those who hold personal current accounts.

Access to ATMs is still important for many in the UK
Access to ATMs is still important for many in the UK. Picture: Alamy

Building on the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023, the FCA will use these newfound powers to make sure banks and building societies are keeping up to these standards - and have the power to fine them if they do not.

Treasury Economic Secretary Andrew Griffith said cash still had "an important role to play" in society.

Mr Griffith said: "People shouldn't have to trek for hours to withdraw a tenner to put in someone's birthday card - nor should businesses have to travel large distances to deposit cash takings.

"These are measures which benefit everyone who uses cash but particularly those living in rural areas, the elderly and those with disabilities."

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