As the world moves towards a more cashless society a study has found that cash machines in the UK are closing at an alarming rate of around 300 every month.
The study, carried out by Which? found that the closures will cast “serious doubt” on the pledges made by the cash machine network Link to protect access to ATMs in rural areas.
Changes to the way cash machines are funded mean that operators of cash machines are to receive less money from banks every time a person uses one. This could lead to the creation of “cash deserts” around the UK.
Link said the effect was expected to be “a modest decline in the number of ATMs in areas where they are heavily concentrated but with no diminution in the overall geographical coverage”.
But Which? found that almost 1,500 machines closed between November last year and April, which it said was a near six-fold increase from a steady rate of fewer than 50 closures a month since 2015.
The investigation found that machines in rural communities were at least as badly hit as urban areas – down 2.1% and 2% respectively – across the UK.
Which? said such closures would hit rural communities especially hard at a time when bank branch closures were also gaining pace.
Which? Money editor Harry Rose said: “With hundreds of cashpoints closing every month, we have serious concerns that, far from protecting consumers’ access to cash, Link’s plans risk destroying it.
“These cuts could see millions of people who rely on cash in their daily lives struggling through these closures – with severe consequences for many communities and businesses.
“The impact of these cuts is already clear – with machines closing at a frightening pace. The regulator must act now to stop further closures and ensure that consumers aren’t suddenly stripped of their access to cash.”
A spokesman for Link said: “Over the last 10 years cash payments have fallen by 33%. During the same period free ATM numbers have grown 18,000 (50%).
“This disconnect is not sustainable and needs addressing now to protect Link and future access to cash for consumers.
“Which? has suggested that ATMs have fallen by 1,500 in the period between November and April, however Link can confirm that during this period the number of free-to-use ATMs actually increased.