Free-to-use Link ATMs across the UK at risk of being closed down


Kinda related/not related to Starling as Starling isn’t a member of Link anyway (although it has been mentioned on these boards that they should be considering it).

But also shows just how big an issue running the ATM network is.

These proposals could see a lot of currently free to use machines removed as it looks like the idea is to lower the interchange fee (25p per transaction) which would make a lot of them no longer financially viable.

What do you think? With the Starling account I’ve been trying to go cashless (to make the most of spending insights). This month I’ve actually taken no money at all out of an ATM from my Starling account - although I did cheat and take some out from my Nationwide account but even that was only £70 across the whole month. So, not a lot. There’s just a few niggley things that I still need cash for (bus fare for example!) but I think I’m probably close to going completely cashless (until I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere and need to get a cab back to civilisation…)

Hundreds of free-to-use cash machines are at risk of being closed down on high streets across the UK as a result of proposals being published this week to overhaul the 70,000-strong Link network.

The ideas are being put forward by the board of Link, ten months after a row over the fees the members of the network charge each other for using cash machines sparked fears that customers could face fresh charges for taking out their cash.

The new proposals could raise alarm among consumer groups about the impact of fewer free-to-use ATMs - there are currently 55,000 - on vulnerable customers, particularly at a time when banks are closing branches. They could also provoke more controversy within the Link network.

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But John Howells, chief executive of Link, said while the number of free-to-use machines could fall over time, there would be protections for customers on low incomes and areas of the UK would not be left without ATMs.

The ATM network, which includes 70,000 machines when ones which charge for cash withdrawals are included, costs £1bn a year to run. The proposals have been drawn up after a working group, set up in the wake of the simmering row which erupted in January, failed to reach an agreement. It will be sent to the members of Link on Wednesday.

Link has 30 members - ranging from high street banks and building societies to private companies which install machines around the UK - and the new proposals relate to the “interchange” fee that the card issuers in the network pay to each other and the independent providers when their customers withdraw cash.

This interchange fee is calculated by dividing the cost of running the free-to-use network by the number of transactions and is currently around 25p. It means that high street banks with millions of customers end up with big bills to keep cash withdrawals free for customers.


Howell said the board of Link thought this interchange fee was too high, leading to too many machines being installed and pushing up the cost of running the network.

“[There are] 5,000 more [ATMs] than three years ago and the usage of cash by consumers is going down,” he said.

Data from industry lobby group UK Finance showed that the number of cash payments decreased by 11% between 2015 and 2016, although the Bank of England has said that in 2016 the value of notes in circulation increased by 10%. Some 2.7 million people in the UK rely almost entirely on cash.

Howells said there were protections for vulnerable customers in the proposals, which were needed to stop the system breaking apart as the card issuers - the big banks - could leave Link and join rival, cheaper systems such as those run by Visa and Mastercard.


There are way too many about, so not really that strange. My local shops there is 4 cash machines, 3 are inside shops and only one is a proper bank machine. No actually need for that many.

There has been talk for years about the cost of providing free cash withdrawals. I’ll rather have free banking than so many cash machines personally. However they have to ensure they keep some protection in place to ensure that where needed they don’t remove them.


What makes me laugh now is that cash zone nearly force you to obtain a balance enquiry - I wonder why? They get money for it. Exact same reason they have free machines to get their 25p.


Greedy banks again. So once they have my money, pay no interest on it, now want to charge me to withdraw my money???

Well RBS should be free, they should never forget without all our money it would be bankrupt years ago. If I’m right the taxpayer still owns 70% odd of it still. So technically the taxpayer is the major shareholder, so it should be free to us. It’s a bit rich to bite the hand that has fed you so well now!!

And the banks wonder why people are so p**sed off with them???

It’d suit me, close all the damn machines and I’ll pay be card everywhere. Those that don’t accept cards would soon have to, they’d probably find it was cheaper anyway, I think iZettle and the like are charging £29 for a card reader. They can then bank with Starling business banking and the greedy legacy banks would be grovelling for our business.


It might be time for yet another Treasury Select Committee hearing. Their 2015 Cash Machine Charges [PDF] report might be out of date.

LINK should take steps to improve consumer representation within its organisation. Consumer groups could be invited to attend relevant meetings of LINK or invited to sit on working groups, so that their views can be taken into account. Openness would also be improved if the details of how member organisations had voted on consumer issues were made known.
The approach by LINK to self-regulation in respect of enforcement, as illustrated by the absence of a systematic mechanism for enforcement of its transparency requirements (already discussed above), is totally inadequate for a part of the financial services industry used by millions of consumers each year. An absence of effective self regulation beyond this year would not be acceptable.

@daedal Have you asked those shops if they actually want the ATMs they have? Treasury Select Committee heard some operators of charging ATMs require 7 years notice to end a contract and remove a machine.

Excessive notice periods for the removal of a free-standing charging machine and unduly long contracts could be hindering competition. We recommend that the OFT conduct a short investigation into the length of contracts between small business owners and charging cash machine operators to determine whether they are ‘hindering, restricting or distorting’ competition.


I’m pretty sure Maplins stock them for about that price too? I used one of the iZettle readers the other day at a British Legion pop up store. I think for £29 odd quid the build quality is excellent and it worked perfectly.

I thought it looked much more impressive than simply being cash only.


I think cash only in shops makes it look a bit ‘fly by night’ accepting cards however I always think makes it seem a bit more permanent.

I hope smaller shops start taking cards if cash is charged for withdrawal.

It annoys me that some of the banks the taxpayers bailed out now want to shaft us. They were happy enough to accept huge bailout money to stay afloat, now everything’s better, it’s back to shafting the taxpayer again.

Maybe the government should intervene and set fair card payment fees.

If I could I’d just have cards to pay, with no cash at all.