The UK’s major banks have made hundreds of millions of pounds from cash machine cuts and bank branch closures in the last two years, while fees paid by consumers to access their own cash have soared, new research from Which? reveals.
New figures obtained by the consumer champion show the amount paid by consumers to withdraw cash jumped by £29m to £104m last year - as many free machines vanished or were converted to charge fees, typically at a £2 per transaction price point.
In contrast, this seismic shift in the cashpoint network has saved the banks £120m since January 2018, according to the new figures from Link, which runs the UK’s largest cashpoint network.
More than 8,700 free ATMs have closed since changes to how the Link network is funded were pushed through in January 2018.
Between 2018 and 2019 the percentage of fee-charging machines jumped by 37% (from 11,120 to 15,277) and they now comprise a quarter (25%) of the entire network of 60,291 machines.
These changes have seen the number of times people have had to pay to withdraw cash increase from 46m in 2018 to 73m in 2019 - a rise of 59% in a single year.
The banks are also saving vast sums through branch closures - with 1,203 having closed since January 2018 alone. These ongoing closures have drastically reduced people’s ability to access free withdrawals across the UK.
Which? is calling on the government to intervene with legislation that protects free access to cash for as long as it is needed.
Gareth Shaw, head of money, Which?, says: “Massive cuts to the UK’s bank branch and cash machine networks have been highly lucrative for the big banks - but highly costly for millions of consumers. Entire communities have been cut off from cash or forced to pay hefty fees to access their own money.
“The Budget is a major opportunity for the government to introduce much-needed legislation that protects access to cash and free withdrawals for as long as this vital payment method is needed.”