The Association of Convenience Stores is calling on LINK, who manages the UK’s cash machine network, to cancel their next planned fee cut and stop the torrent of machines being lost from local communities.
LINK’s cuts to the fees that are paid to cash machine operators have resulted in thousands of free cash machines being lost in communities across the UK, leaving tens of thousands of people without any way of getting access to their money.
We are now exactly one year away from the next fee cut, which will already be influencing the decisions of cash machine operators when thinking about whether their machines are viable long term. ACS is calling on LINK to scrap this and consider whether the fees paid to machine operators need to be returned to pre-2018 levels to protect access to cash in the long term.
Since 2018, LINK have been putting in force cuts which have resulted in a significant decline in the number of cash machines in operation. These cuts have gone too far, too fast, and according to consumer group Which?, have led to 1 in 10 of Britain’s cash machines being either lost or moved to a pay-to-use model which denies people free access to their cash.
For millions of people, their local shop is now the only place where access to cash is available, especially as more than a third of bank branches have been retreating from high streets, towns and villages in the last five years.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “Protecting access to cash is crucial for the millions of people that still rely on it every day. Communities across the UK have been left without a cash machine at all as a result of LINK’s programme of cuts to interchange fees, with many more only being able to get to a machine locally that charges to withdraw money. LINK must stop the cuts that have been so damaging to the network and ensure that the local shops who offer cash machines are supported.”
Over 2 million people rely on cash every day, and millions more be using cash over the festive period, putting money in Christmas cards for friends and relatives, keeping an eye on spending during the sales, and having extra cash for cabs to get home on New Years’ Eve. LINK themselves stated that the busiest day for cash usage this year was just before Christmas on Friday December 20th.
Gareth Shaw, Head of Money at Which?, said: “Our research has found that provision of free cash machines is already shockingly low, particularly among poorer communities, threatening to exclude those who rely most on cash in their everyday lives from being able to make essential daily purchases. It’s clear that industry measures alone cannot prevent further reductions to the network of free ATMs. The government must take urgent steps to fix the UK’s broken cash landscape and introduce legislation to ensure people continue to have free access to their cash for as long as it is needed.”
ACS has said that if LINK do not take action, the Government should intervene to ensure that access to cash is protected in the long term.