Plans by the UK's Link network to cut the amount that banks pay to fund free-to-use cash machines will lead to "ATM deserts" and cause communities to wither, warns an industry association.
Link, which operates a 70,000-strong ATM network is planning to shake up its business model in response to growing unhappiness among its bank members, who pay hundreds of millions of pounds a year to fund free cash withdrawals.
Currently the banks pay interchange fee of 25 pence every time a customer uses a non-branch machine at another bank. Link wants to cut this by 20%, to 20 pence, over the next four years.
According to the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA), this will result in "a vast reduction in free access to cash for British citizens and businesses".
Link says that it will still keep an "extensive network" of free machines but will put a halt to increasing numbers of machines in a country where cash usage is on the fall thanks to the rise of contactless payments.
Link also says that it will boost its financial inclusion programme to help protect deprived communities but ATMIA says the plans "will hit the most hard-up the heaviest - particularly the millions of people who rely on cash for day-to-day budgeting".
Link member banks and the organisations consumer council are currently being consulted on the plans but ATIMA is already calling for regulators and the government to step in.