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31 Oct 2019

'Request an ATM' tool launches for areas hit by cash machine closures

Find out how to apply for an ATM in your community

Communities with poor access to cash can now go online and apply for a new ATM to be installed in their area as part of an initiative by the UK's largest cash machine network.

The Link network today launched its 'Request an ATM' tool as Which? research has revealed free-to-use cashpoints continue to disappear at a rate of around 500 a month across the country.

Which? Money has partnered with Link for this initiative, and we welcome you to fill in our own version of the tool found below.

Read on to find out more about the access to cash problem and how you can suggest a site for a new ATM near you.

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Cash machine and bank branch closures

The new tool is the latest part of an ongoing Link strategy to address the loss of cash access in various parts of the country.

In September, a major Which? study found that 10% of cash machines had closed in the previous 17 months - with losses mostly focused in poorer areas.

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

Further Which? research found that over 5,000 free-to-use ATMs were lost between January 2018 and May 2019 and in rural areas the loss of a cash machine has forced some communities to take a ferry in order to access their money.

Below, we map the most extreme journeys residents must now make just to find a free-to-use ATM.

In the past two years, our research has shone a light on the rapid decline in bank branch numbers and ATM machines. We have consistently found that rural and poorer areas have been hardest hit by the cuts.

This map shows you where and when banks have closed branches in the last four and a half years.

How to request an ATM near you

Following our analysis, Link launched its Community Access to Cash Delivery Fund, which invited local communities to apply for a free-to-use cash machine. The network today announced it had already had 100 applications in the first month.

As a result, the new tool has been developed to meet the swell of demand.

To use it you just need to go to the website, fill out your details, suggest a site for the ATM and explain why it is needed.

Which? Money has partnered with Link for this initiative, and we welcome you to fill in our own version of the tool (see below).

Information from the Which? tool will be passed onto Link and will also help supply information to support our work with members of the public and MPs as part of our ongoing campaign, 'Freedom to Pay. Our Way'.

How long will it take to get a new ATM?

Link said the process for installing a new ATM can vary by location and could take between three and six months.

A secure location with a willing owner needs to be found before an ATM can be connected to the network and a contract put out to tender.

Link promises it will respond to the requests one by one and assess whether it can find a viable location to get an ATM up and running in the area.

John Howells, LINK CEO said: 'It's great that we've had so much interest so far. Many of the applications show there are locations around the country where there is a cash access problem.

'We've already visited 10 of these locations and will be working hard to listen to every community that has got in touch.'

Howells has also written a Which? Convo to mark the launch of the tool, which you can read here.

In addition to the Delivery Fund, Link has also committed to protecting free cash access on every high street in the UK. It has chosen 11 towns to receive a free ATM as part of the High Streets Protected Scheme: Deal, Ebbw Vale, Margate, Middleton, Wilmslow, York, Battle, Bungay and Nuneaton in England; Tywyn in Wales; and Durness in Scotland.

Any new ATMs will be funded through the Link scheme, whose members include independent ATM operators, banks and building societies.

Will the tool be enough to save your access to cash?

The Request an ATM tool won't guarantee you'll get one in your area, but it will help raise the alarm if you feel you've been cut off from access to cash.

Responding to today's announcement, Which? Money Editor, Jenny Ross said: 'This is a positive step that may help to plug the gaps created by the alarming rate of bank branch and cashpoint closures across the UK - so Link must deal with requests swiftly and aim to provide free machines for all those left cut off from cash. But it's clear this scheme alone won't fix the country's broken cash landscape.

'Appalling mismanagement by the industry and regulators has left the cash system on the brink of collapse and communities are being presented with a confusing array of schemes to fix the problem. It's time for the government to intervene with legislation that ensures long-term measures are in place to protect cash for as long as it's 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.