Cash Access Will Cost in a New Era of UK ATM Fees
The UK is set to lose around one thousand free-to-use cash points, with ATM operator Notemachine claiming government funding is no longer sufficient to support the service.
In the coming months, 15 percent of Notemachine’s free ATMs will start charging for withdrawals. The company’s Chief Executive Steve Makaritis says funding has been cut by 10 percent since 2018, meaning it is no longer cost effective to provide free cash access in many places.
Government legislation protects ‘access to cash’, but crucially fails to address the broken funding model that is forcing ATM operators to convert. Under current legislation, only a tiny fraction of ATMs… are receiving the right level of funding to keep them operational on a free-to-use basis. Unless more funding is given, households will be left with a very small number of free ATMs.
Only 3,300 UK cash points have ‘protected’ status, meaning they are well-funded and guaranteed to remain free. Consumer rights group Which? highlighted the problem back in 2020, at the point when more than a quarter of the nation’s cash machines had started charging for withdrawals.
Another key driver in the erosion of cash access is bank closures, with Halifax, Lloyds and NatWest recently announcing plans to close at least 81 more branches. In total, this means Halifax is on track to shut 32 branches in 2023, with Lloyds closing 62 and NatWest a massive 104.
These developments come at a time when UK-wide cash use has risen for the first time in over a decade as more Brits are discovering banknotes and coins can help them take control of their finances. These individuals join many who depend on cash for everyday transactions, either by choice or because cash is the only payment option not requiring a bank account, and not subject to restrictions imposed by financial service providers that bar some from accessing them.
Euphemia Senna, a British TikToker whose cash-based budgeting helped her out of debt, explains the particular value of cash in the present economic climate.
[People are] having their homes taken away from them. They’re having their wages reduced. They want to hold onto something. More than that, they want to take charge and feel empowered by something. Cash does that.