The poorest communities in the UK are being hit the hardest by the loss of free-to-use cash machines, with one in 10 being axed or charging fees in the last 17 months.
A study released today, carried out by Which?, found that 8,700 machines have gone in that time, but only 223 were in the wealthiest areas.
By contrast, the most deprived areas lost 979 machines with a further 15 per cent set to go if network operator NoteMachine carries out plans to start charging fees on 1,500 ATMs.
People on lower incomes tend to be more reliant on cash — that's why we are so concerned about the alarming loss of free-to-use ATM's in deprived areas.
— Which? (@WhichUK) September 18, 2019
Great Yarmouth was the location where the loss was felt the most, with almost half the cash machines there charging a fee, while there have been significant increases in Vauxhall, Birmingham Hodge Hill and Nuneaton.
These charges soon add up, particularly for those on the lowest household incomes who still use cash – 78 per cent in this group still use cash three times a week.
There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
The issue was flagged up in last year’s Access to Cash Review but Which? is asking new Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid to introduce a minimum service guarantee that cash will be accessible and continue to be accepted.
They said: “We know that people in more deprived communities tend to rely heavily on cash, so it’s deeply concerning that those who can least afford it are being hit with the extra burden of hefty fees to access their own money as free cashpoints close at an alarming rate.
“The government and regulators must urgently get a grip on these rapid changes to the cash landscape and guarantee people across the UK can continue to access this important payment method for as long as it is required.”
In response to the Which? study a spokesperson for the Payment Systems Regulator said: “Banks need to make sure their customers can access their cash when and where they need it.
“It is important that banks engage closely with local communities and their customers to understand their needs for cash so that well designed and suitably tailored solutions can be put in place to meet those needs.”
Going cashless has transformed Hugh's outlook on life, in more ways than one.
Look out for iZettle stickers or ask your local vendor and let us know if you buy a #cashlessbigissue! pic.twitter.com/N3Cliq02Zc
— The Big Issue (@BigIssue) September 13, 2019
Cash’s decline in accessibility and use is one of the reasons why The Big Issue has launched a cashless revolution by working with iZettle to allow our vendors to sell the magazine with contactless card readers.
Our vendors were becoming financially excluded by only accepting cash, with one in five Brits ditching notes and coins entirely while contactless was used for 5.6 billion payments last year.
Take the experiences of Emma Ford, 46, who sells The Big Issue outside London Victoria Station. She said: “So many people never carry cash so I had to get the card reader, for me it is a big plus because we had to make a move to keep up.”