Rural cash machine fears rejected

The UK's biggest ATM network has rejected claims that changes in its fee structure could result in the widespread loss of cash machines in rural locations.

LINK has been consulting its members on proposals to reduce the level of interchange –? the fee paid by card issuers to ATM operators.

The proposals include a 20% reduction in interchange rates over the next four years, from around 25p to 20p per cash withdrawal.

LINK said this would retain an extensive network of free ATMs for consumers, while avoiding the growth in ATM numbers that has occurred over recent years.

    See also: Warning over cash machine closures

It said the number of cash machines had continued to grow despite declining consumer demand for cash for payments.

The proposed reduction in interchange of 5% per year was intended to give ATM operators the opportunity to reduce costs through efficiencies and minimise any reduction in ATM numbers.

LINK said boosting its financial inclusion programme would maintain extensive free access to cash for all in the UK.

This would build on existing measures that ensured the continued provision of ATMs in deprived communities, where demand would not otherwise make one viable.

LINK chief executive John Howells said: “LINK is committed to maintaining an extensive network of free-to-use cash machines.”

He added: “Free access to cash is vital for UK consumers and LINK intends to maintain this for many years to come.”

The number of cash machines in the UK is currently at near record levels, with more than 70,000 ATMs across the country, around 80% of which are free-to-use.

But around 80% of free-to-use ATMs currently are within 300m of another free-to-use machine.

Mr Howells said the proposed changes were a result of a predicted fall in consumers’ demand for cash for payments and move to alternatives such as contactless and online payments.

Data from UK Finance predicts that over the next ten years, the number of cash payments will fall by 43% to 8.7bn payments, with the total value predicted to fall by 23% to £185bn in 2026.

The independent LINK board is expected to announce its ffinal decision by 31 January, with a view to implementing it by 1 April 2018.


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