GettyImages_Card in ATM_Credit Eugenio Marongiu (1)

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has revealed a 30% fall in the number of free to use card machines available in the UK and has called on the government to review the interchange fee for ATMS.

It found that free to use cash machines have decreased from over 53,000 in 2018 to 37,836.

In addition, the ACS’s 2023 Local Shop Report showed that 40% of convenience store retailers offer a free to use cash machine for customers in their stores, with 12% having a charged cash machine on site. 

The interchange fee is set by ATM network LINK and covers the operation and management of ATMs.

ACS chief executive James Lowman explained that cash remains a crucial payment method for millions of people in the UK and is used by many customers as a way of managing their money.

“Convenience stores play a vital role in providing customers with access to their cash, especially with the closure of bank branches in communities, but many members have told us that they are being forced to either remove or change their free to use ATMs because they’re just not financially viable. We have called on the Government to review the level of ATM interchange fees to ensure the long-term sustainability of the free to use ATM network.”

The ACS introduced its tool Access to Cash Tracker earlier this year and it reveals the change in ATM provision in every constituency across the UK, providing detail on how the total number of ATMs in each constituency has changed since 2018, how the split between free to use and charged ATMs has changed since 2018, and how many people there are for every one ATM in each constituency. The Tracker uses official figures published by LINK every month on the access to cash provision throughout the UK. 

Craig Beaumont chief of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses said: “It’s vital that cash remains an element of a competitive payments market, so consumers and businesses have choices. This keeps a downward pressure on card fees.  We welcome ACS’s ATM monitor to help local communities, MPs and candidates keep track in their area.

“While a ‘cashless society’ will be possible later, it should be when people are ready - and also when a potential digital currency launches to maintain competitiveness. The choice should be for consumers and businesses to make, not have that decision taken out of their hands by removing their access to cash.”

Rural Services Network chief executive Kerry Booth voiced her concerns about the reduction in availability of cash for rural residents.

“Whilst the Government has committed to people and businesses being no more than three miles away from a place that they can withdraw cash, reducing ATMs mean that in reality it is becoming more difficult for rural residents to access cash.  In my constituency, the total number of ATMs has reduced by over a third in the last five years. We would like to see Government ensure that rural residents are not being disadvantaged yet again simply because of where they live.“

It follows the framework set out by the Treasury in August that would protect free access to cash for consumers.