The UK’s largest operator of free-to-use ATMs Link has revealed long-awaited details of changes to its fee structure that could have a significant effect on access to cash in the country.
The company states that the moves, which center around a reduction in the interchange fees paid by banks for each transaction on the network, will help secure the future of free-to-use ATMs in the UK, but others have warned that it could see tens of thousands of machines disappear from streets.
At the heart of the plan is a phased reduction in the fees charged to banks per withdrawal, which will see fees reduced by five percent (around 1p) each year for the next four years. The first such drop will take place on July 1st 2018.
In order to address concerns about the impact this would have on the availability of free ATMs, the company has stated that ATMs that are currently more than one kilometer from the nearest free machine will be exempt from the changes. The financial inclusion subsidy for devices in areas with poor access to cash will also be tripled from 10p to 30p.
Chief executive of Link John Howells said the company is “committed” to ensuring free access to cash. However, he noted that while the UK has a near-record number of ATMs, the majority of recent growth has seen new deployments take place in already-busy areas where there is no need for additional ATMs.
“The combination of a reduction of the interchange, with the significant strengthening of the Financial Inclusion Programme, will begin to rebalance the network, making sure we protect and install new ATMs in locations that really need them,” he continued.
However, other groups, including consumers and industry bodies, have criticized the plans. Money expert at Which? Gavin Shaw warned the proposal could lead to a “significant reduction” in free ATMs across the UK. Meanwhile, Ron Delnevo, executive director of the ATM Industry Association, said: “To lose any [ATMs] would be a disaster, but we will lose 25,000 to 30,000 from these measures if they are allowed to go ahead, which they should not.”