Free ATMs could be cut back in cash machine shake-up

By Simon Read
Personal finance reporter

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People using ATMs

Plans to shake-up the UK's ATM network may lead to a "vast reduction" in the number of free-access cash machines.

Link, the UK's largest ATM network with 70,000 machines, is proposing to overhaul the operation.

Under the change, Link would reduce the amount it charges card issuers to allow customers to use the machines.

But the move will leave "ATM deserts" where communities have no access to cash, warned the ATM Industry Association.

On Wednesday, Link published a range of proposals, including a cut in the fees it charges card companies from around 25p to 20p per withdrawal.

It said the changes - which would come into effect next April - would help protect the network, which currently includes 55,000 free-to-use machines.

Link said it was committed to maintaining an extensive network of free-to-use machines

But the ATM Industry Association criticised the plans.

The trade body warned that unprofitable machines would be shut down, leaving "ATM deserts" where communities have no access to cash and other financial services.

"A unwarranted shake-up of Link will hit the most hard-up the heaviest - particularly the millions of people who rely on cash for day-to-day budgeting," said Ron Delnevo, of the association.

But Link chief executive John Howells said: "Free access to cash is vital for UK consumers and Link intends to maintain this for many years to come."

He said Link's financial inclusion programme will help maintain "extensive free access to cash for all in the UK".

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