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Thousands of free-to-use cash machines could be closed over the next five years because of a cut in fees received by operators.

As reported by Sky News, the fee – known as the ‘interchange rate’ – is 25p, but it’s being cut to 20p for machines in areas with lots of machines.

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The move is an attempt by LINK, which oversees ATMs, to encourage operators to place machines in more remote areas.

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45% of cash machines could disappear

But the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA) said the move could see up to 30,000 ATMs disappear; 45% of the UK’s current total.

The fee will be reduced in annual steps over four years, to protect the network, according to LINK. The cut in the fee will take effect from 1 July. The situation will be reviewed each year to assess the impact on consumers.

LINK believe that the move will help “shift the incentive” for operators which have been clustering ATMs in city centres to move some cash machines to rural and less affluent areas.

“Protecting free access to cash”

John Howells, LINK’s chief executive, said: “LINK is committed to protecting free access to cash. The UK has a near-record number of ATMs, yet the recent growth has led to the majority of these being placed in busy areas where there simply is no need for a new ATM.”

According to LINK, the changes would mean free ATMs that are more than 1km or more from the next free machine are exempt from cuts to fees. LINK claim 80% of free-to-use ATMs are currently within 300 metres of another free-to-use machine.

Industry criticism

The confirmed plans have been criticised by the industry and some consumer groups.

Ron Delnevo, executive director of the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA), added: “There is no case to remove any UK ATMs. We need more to help replace fast-disappearing bank branches. We are now at serious risk of seeing branches, ATMs and cash deserts in thousands of communities – urban and rural – all over the UK.

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“To lose any of them 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.”

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