atm in store

There are currently 37,836 free-to-use cash machines, according to ACS’s Access To Cash Tracker 

Free-to-use cash machines are disappearing from high streets and communities, with the number of chargeless ATMs dropping by almost 30% in the past five years, says the ACS.

According to the trade body’s latest figures in its Access To Cash Tracker, there are currently 37,836 free-to-use cash machines available across the UK, down from over 53,000 in 2018. 

CEO James Lowman explained convenience stores are being forced to either remove their free-to-use ATMs or change to a chargeable model because “they’re not financially viable”, despite the “vital role” retailers play in providing customers with access to cash.

“Cash is still an incredibly important payment method for millions of people in the UK and is used by many customers as a way of managing their money,” said Lowman.

“We have called on the government to review the level of ATM interchange fees to ensure the long-term sustainability of the free-to-use ATM network.”

The interchange fee is set by the UK’s largest ATM network Link, and covers the operation and management of ATMs, including a retailer’s commission.

Steve Makaritis, CEO of ATM operator NoteMachine, said: “NoteMachine has long been campaigning for a sustained funding model for free-to-use ATMs. The UK’s cash machine network is at a crunch point due to the withdrawal fee remaining the same since 2018, resulting in a 10% real terms reduction, leaving independent ATM operators like NoteMachine no choice but to convert to pay-to-use.

“This funding challenge must be addressed by the FCA, with close support from government, in order to safeguard cash access for the consumers and businesses that rely on it as both a payment and budgeting method. Without intervention, the UK risks a significant reduction in free-to-use ATMs, jeopardising cash accessibility for all.”

Rural Services Network CEO Kerry Booth said: “The Rural Services Network is concerned about the reduction in availability of cash for rural residents. 

“Whilst the government has committed to people and businesses being no more than three miles away from a place they can withdraw cash, reducing ATMs mean in reality it is becoming more difficult for rural residents to access cash.” 

Federation of Small Businesses chief of external affairs Craig Beaumont added: “It’s vital that cash remains an element of a competitive payments market, so consumers and businesses have choices.  This keeps a downward pressure on card fees. We welcome ACS’s ATM monitor to help local communities, MPs and candidates keep track in their area.”