People living in areas without easy access to cash will now be able to request a free-to-use ATM for their community.
A fund has been set up by Link – the outfit that runs the UK’s cash machine network – in order to pay for the new ATMs.
£1m will be made available to pay for up to 50 machines across the UK, with more money becoming available if the service is popular.
A total of 11 sites have already been identified for the installation of new ATMs: Deal, Ebbw Vale, Margate, Middleton, Wilmslow and York, as well as other sites in Battle, Bungay, Nuneaton, Tywyn, and Durness.
Communities can put in a request to the service if their area fulfils certain criteria. This includes of having a lack of ATMs nearby, having no Post Office access, and there being a suitable safe location identified for the new ATM itself.
Applications are unlikely to be successful if there is a free-to-use ATM within 1km of the community and there are no particular challenges to accessing it.
The chief executive of Link, John Howells, said that he is “looking forward to getting the first requests for ATMs so we can help solve access to cash issues across the whole UK.”
UK Finance, the banking trade body, published a report this week showing that by the end of 2018 there were 52,358 free-to-use ATMs operating within the UK, with another 11,002 pay-to-use machines also in operation.
In 2018, a total of £193bn in cash was taken out from ATMs in the UK across 2.4 billion withdrawals. The number of ATM cash withdrawals are considerably more than other methods – with debit card cashback accounting for only 150 million withdrawals, and over-the-counter withdrawals accounting for just 55 million.
There have been concerns regarding the declining number of ATMs within the UK. The consumer group Which? recently published findings that showed that free-to-use cash machines were disappearing faster in less well-off areas than in more affluent ones.
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB), described the fund as a “promising step in the right direction”. He said: “When an ATM is removed from a local area, we know it is especially difficult to get one reinstalled later on, and we hope this move can help”.
However, not everyone is positive about the news. Peter McNamara, chief executive of NoteMachine (an independent ATM operator), said that the new ATMs would not make much of a difference in the wake of the thousands that had already been shut. He called the Link fund a “a tiny bandage on a massive wound”.
McNamara also explained that many cash machines had become uneconomic as a result of Link forcing cuts in the fees that banks pay to ATM operators each time a customer uses a non-bank machine. These machines were then either removed or changed to a pay-to-use service.