8,000 Cash Machines Removed

A new study looks at the decline in cash machine access for millions of UK residents

September 1, 2021
8,000 Cash Machines Removed
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A new study by the consumer group Which? has shown that around 8,000 cash machines in the UK have been removed, accounting for around 13% of all cash machines in the UK. Almost none of these cash machines have been replaced, leaving a huge shortfall in the options for anyone looking to withdraw cash.

It comes as the total number of bank branches to have been closed between March 2020 – the first lockdown in the UK as a result of the Coronavirus – and July 2021 breached the 800 mark, with over 100 more due to close this year.

Most of the cash machines were removed by providers during the first lockdown, from March to May in 2020.

Survey reveals cashpoint pain points

As part of the study, Which? also surveyed a large number of consumers on the subject of cash machines, and also looked at the number of cash machines that charged users to withdraw their money.

Regarding the survey, 57% of people reported having a problem with their cash machine, or finding a high street bank.

Breaking this down further, one in four people surveyed said that they had experienced a problem with at least one cash machine within the last 12 months. These problems were wide-ranging, including the machines running out of cash, not working when they should have been, the cash machine having been removed, or introducing charges where previously they were free.

And of the people surveyed, 43% said they had been affected by bank branch issues within the last year, including their branch closing or reduced opening hours. It’s unclear how many of those impacted were referring to problems with COVID-19 related lockdowns that were forced by the government.

These stark figures show the extent of the damage caused by the pandemic to the already fragile cash system, and demonstrate the consequences that this is having on consumers who are trying to withdraw cash.

While many people can now bank digitally, millions of people are not yet ready or able to do so. It is consumers who are looking to withdraw and spend cash in nearby shops or the high street who will be hardest hit if they are left without a way to access it locally.

Gareth Shaw, Which?

Charges variance

The second part of Which’s study looked at the regional differences in cash machine charges.

Many ATMs owned by banks are free for consumers to use, but private cash machines will often levy a charge of between £1.50 and £3 to use the service.

The study showed that there is a large discrepancy between the percentage of cash machines charging users depending on where you live. One of the starkest contrasts from the study is how in the South East, including London, only 19% of cash machines add a charge, while the West Midlands sees that figure soar to 28%.

The FCA is currently looking at laws on ensuring consumers have access to banking facilities, which may include ensuring free cash machine access is available within walking distance for all UK residents.

Ian Lewis
Ian Lewis
Ian is an experienced writer with 15 years’ experience working in journalism and marketing. He’s worked in-house in financial institutions as well as writing freelance pieces for a variety of banking and financial trading websites.

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