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Exclusive: hundreds of ‘ATM deserts’ identified in the UK

Which? investigation reveals the parts of the country that can't access cash

More than 250 parts of the UK have poor ATM provision or no ATMs at all, exclusive new research by Which? Money has found. 

We’re calling on the next government to step in and protect the UK’s cash machine network before it’s too late.

Read on to find out about the communities hardest hit by the lack of cashpoints, how to request an ATM using our new tool and how to join our campaign to protect access to cash.


Where are the ‘ATM deserts’?

In our latest investigation, we analysed data from Link – the UK’s cash machine network – to identify the corners of the UK which are not well served by cash machines.

We found 130 postcode districts, home to more than 115,000 people, which have no cash machine at all. 

A further 129 have just one machine, but 84 of them will charge a fee if people want to take their money out.

The most populated postcode districts which do not have a cash machine include:

  • PE32 in Peterborough, home to 15,294 people
  • DL11 in Darlington, home to 5,308 people
  • NE43 in Newcastle, home to 4,532 people
  • NR24 in Norwich, home to 4,462 people

While these communities do have access to a Post Office, some 36 of the 130 ‘ATM deserts’ we identified do not.

The Post Office, which has 11,500 branches across the UK, is often left to pick up the slack when bank branches close and ATMs disappear from a community. It offers basic services allowing customers of most banks to check their balance and take cash out as well as deposit cash or cheques.

However, we don’t think that a Post Office provides an adequate substitute for a cashpoint or a bank branch as the list of what you can’t do there is much longer.

Request an ATM near you

We’ve joined forces with Link to help communities request an ATM. You can use the tool below to make a request for a new ATM to be installed near you.


Information from the Which? tool will be passed onto Link and will also help supply information to support our work identifying struggling communities and putting pressure on MPs as part of our ongoing campaign, ‘Freedom to Pay. Our Way’.

So far, around 200 people have completed the form, and we’d urge you to do the same if you think that your community would benefit from a free cash machine.

Cash machine and bank branch closures

Our latest analysis follows research earlier in the year, which showed that free cash machines are disappearing faster in poorer communities. 

You can see where the largest percentage of ATMs have closed on the map below.

Between January 2018 and September 2019, the number of free-to-use ATMs reduced from 54,500 to 47,500. This fall represents a 13% reduction in the size of the free network (7,000 ATMs).

The loss of free machines accelerated drastically in the first half of this year when an average of 578 free machines were lost or switched to fee-charging each month.

The losses are part explained as a knock-on effect of bank branch closures. A third of all UK bank and building society branches (3,303) were closed in the last four and a half years.

The map below shows you where and when banks have closed branches during that time.

In addition, independent ATM operators have seen their business models challenged by changes to the funding mechanism overseen by Link. The money that operators receive from your bank when you make a free withdrawal has been cut by around 10% since July 2018.

Freedom to Pay. Our Way

Today Which? launches its ‘consumer agenda for government, calling on all political parties to set out a pro-consumer agenda with commitments that deliver tangible improvements for individuals across the UK. This includes calls for the next government to guarantee access to cash for all through legislation.

Gareth Shaw, head of Which? Money, said: ‘The countless communities across the UK with shockingly low cash machine provision show that measures intended to guarantee access to cash simply don’t work.’

Ultimately, we do not think any of the schemes currently in operation, will be enough to protect cash access in the UK. That’s why we’re continuing to call for government intervention. We think the next government should implement legislation to protect cash access for as long as it is needed.

You can find out more about our ‘Freedom to pay. Our way’ campaign and sign the petition calling for better protections on cash access.

You can also share your views by joining the discussion at Which? Conversation.

 

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