The number of cash machines giving us free access to our money will fall by around 7,000 this year. These machines are run by private operators, often in convenience stores.
The two biggest operators, Cardtronics and Notemachine, have warned that such machines are becoming less profitable and that they will have to start charging customers to keep them going.
Cardtronics has already introduced a charge of at least 95p a time at 1,500 machines and expects that number to reach 3,000 shortly. Notemachine has warned that it is considering charges at 4,000 of its 7,000 ATMs.
Operators blame a cut in the fees that banks pay them. When you take cash out of a machine your bank pays the machine operator a fee. It used to be 25p a time, but LINK, the network that runs almost all the cash machines in the UK, cut that to 24p last July and 23p in January.
It has now scrapped further cuts to 20p but the machine operators say the 2p a time cut erodes their margins. Rather than introducing a 2p charge, the minimum imposed is now 95p.
Many machines charge £1.50 or £1.99, and must show the cost clearly before you begin your transaction.
The real reason behind this charge is that we are using cash less and taking less out of machines.
In the week ended 5 May, there were 6.5 million fewer withdrawals from cash machines than a year earlier.
That’s a fall of around 11 per cent, squeezing private cash machine revenue further. The move to charge is not extending to the banks’ own machines or those in busy places like supermarkets.
But private machine operators do charge in places where there is no choice, such as motorway service stations, where charges are more likely to be £2.50 a time.
A big penalty if you only take out £20.
The LINK network has an app to show the location of cash machines (purple = charge, green = free) and can be set to show free ones only. It can be downloaded for both Android and iPhone and you can also check online at link.co.uk and search for “ATM locator”.