‘Free cash machines could become a thing of the past, according to consumer group Which? after it emerged that 1,700 ATMs switched to charging in the first three months of this year alone.
Most of the ATMs affected are operated by Cardtronics – the UK’s biggest cashpoint operator – which warned it is likely to convert a further thousand machines to charge fees in the coming months.
NoteMachine, another major cash machine provider, is also considering converting up to 4,000 of its 7,000-strong network to fees.
The NoteMachine chief executive, Peter McNamara, said: “We have always operated a free-to-use model wherever possible. However, in a worst case scenario, unless urgent action is taken to reduce the pressure on ATM operators by reversing the interchange fee reductions, NoteMachine will be forced to begin converting ATMs to surcharging.”
Behind the surge in fees is falling usage by consumers now switching to contactless payments for small purchases, and a shakeup in how Britain’s ATM network is funded through cuts in so called interchange fees. These are the payments made by banks to cash machine operators every time money is withdrawn.
There are about 52,000 free-to-use cash machines in the UK, but Which? warned this could fall by more than 10% in the coming months.
Fees are at least 95p per withdrawal in the ATMs that Which? has seen converted to charging, but at nearly a quarter of the machines the fee rises to between £1.50 and £1.99.
Link, which connects the vast majority of the UK’s cash machines, has begun a phased reduction in interchange fees, with cuts of 5% a year initially planned until 2021, although these were scaled back after an outcry from campaigners and concerns from regulators.’