Poorest areas hit hardest by free cash machine closures, says consumer group

18 September 2019, 01:20

Reductions to the charges card issuers pay to ATM operators have sparked fears that "cash deserts" could be created.
Reductions to the charges card issuers pay to ATM operators have sparked fears that "cash deserts" could be created. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A study claims free cash machines are disappearing quicker in deprived areas than more affluent ones which is costing people in poorer communities to withdraw money.

Data from consumer group Which? shows one in 10 free cashpoints across the country closed or switched to fee-paying in a 17-month period after major changes to how the network is funded.

Reductions to the charges card issuers pay to ATM operators have sparked fears that "cash deserts" could be created, with bank branches also closing

Which? said analysis found poorer communities have been hardest hit by the changes, with those most reliant on cash and who can least afford to pay for withdrawals facing charges or being forced to travel to access money for free.

Looking at the numbers of free ATMs which had been converted from free to fee-charging, Which? found that the most deprived areas across the UK had seen a reduction of 979 free-to-use machines - equivalent to 5.7% of their ATM network.

And while cash use is in decline, there are still 1.9 million people in the UK reliant on it in their daily lives.
And while cash use is in decline, there are still 1.9 million people in the UK reliant on it in their daily lives. Picture: PA

Overall, Which? found that the most deprived areas across the UK saw a reduction of 979 free-to-use machines – equivalent to six per cent of their ATM network.

But the least deprived areas lost just 223 free cashpoints – equivalent to four per cent of their network of machines.

Which? believes the Payment Systems Regulator should take control of how cashpoints are funded to address the reduction in free cash access across the UK.

Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: “The government and regulators must urgently get a grip on these rapid changes to the cash landscape and guarantee people across the UK can continue to access this important payment method for as long as it is required.”

A Treasury spokesman said: "Technology has transformed banking for millions of people, but we know that many still rely on cash.

"That's why we're co-ordinating work across Government, regulators and industry so we can protect access for everyone who needs it.

"Part of this work includes investing over £2 billion in the Post Office since 2010, giving people across the country local access to everyday banking services at one of its 11,500 branches."

Comments

Loading...