The number of cash machines in the UK has more than doubled in the past six years and Brits make the largest number of ATM withdrawals per year of any country in the EU - some 2.7 billion transactions in 2005, or more than 42 per person.
According to stats from UK payments association Apacs, the number of ATMs in the country rose from 27,379 in 1999 to 58,286 in 2005. Based on the number of cash machines by surface area, the UK has the highest density of ATMs of the large EU member states.
UK consumers made 2.7 billion cash withdrawals during 2005, more than anywhere else in Europe, says Apacs. This is an increase of 6.7% on 2004 or an average of 86 withdrawals for every second throughout the year. This amounts to a record £172 billion withdrawn from UK cash machines during 2005, or £5455 per second.
Apacs says its research also shows that customers are aware of which machines charge a fee for withdrawing cash. Of the 33.8 million adults who regularly use cash machines, the vast majority of withdrawals - 97% by value and 95.5% by volume - are through the free-to-use machines supplied by banks and building societies.
Sandra Quinn, spokesperson, Apacs, says although bank and building society units have contributed to the massive growth in cash machines, the key driver has been the entrance of independent ATM deployers which now supply over 25,000 of the UK's 58,000 cash machines at off-site locations.
Quinn says although these units levy a charge consumers "know when we are paying for that convenience so we can make a choice".
But research released by national charity Citizens Advice in July found that it was the poorest people in the UK and those living in remote rural communities that are being hit the hardest by ATM charges.
The study found that many customers in poorer areas are forced to use fee-charging cash machines because banks have closed branches and removed free-to-use ATMs. the research identified over a hundred "free cash machine deserts" in the UK.
In 1999 virtually all ATMs in the UK were free, but of the 58,000 cash machines now operating, around 40% charge a fee regardless of the size of withdrawal. The average cost per withdrawal at fee-charging units is £1.50, but some machines charge as much as £3.00.
Following the Citizens Advice report, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HBOS all pledged to roll out free-to-use cash machines across some of the "free ATM deserts" identified.
Looking ahead, Apacs says cash machines will provide more than four-fifths of cash requirements by 2015 as cheques and passbook use continues to decline. Some 40 million people are forecast to be regular cash machines users by then, making around 3.1 billion withdrawals worth £245 billion.
Read highlights of Apacs' ATM report here:» Download the document now 683.5 kb (Adobe Acrobat Document)