Today, LINK, the UK’s main cash machine network has confirmed support from Barclays, NatWest, PayPoint, and Sainsbury’s Bank to respond to any requests to replace lost ATMs covered by LINK’s commitment to maintain the overall spread of free ATMs. These four Members already operate almost 16,000 ATMs, 30% of LINK’s total ATMs, and will step in so no community loses free access to cash.
Cash is a vital payment method for the whole of the UK and especially the 18 million people who rely on it, many of whom are vulnerable consumers and living in deprived, remote or rural communities. In normal times cash is used by almost all consumers every week and is a vital fallback if digital systems are not available. During the Coronavirus crisis the use of ATMs has dropped by over 50% as people stay at home and have less opportunities to go out but there are still around 20 million LINK ATM transactions and over £1 billion being withdrawn from LINK ATMs a week. However, the reduced footfall is putting a strain on the free ATM network and some quieter cash machines risk closure without help.
To protect consumers, LINK (the main UK ATM network), supported by its independent LINK Consumer Council, has already committed to maintain the overall spread of free ATMs across the UK as part of the wider Access to Cash debate. All 3,800 free ATMs in remote, rural and deprived communities without another source of cash nearby are in scope. So is the provision of cash in all 6,500 UK high streets. Any of these ATMs that risk being lost will be replaced through a mechanism that subsidises the installation of a replacement ATM by one of LINK’s other Member banks, building societies, or ATM deployers. To-date, only a small number of ATM deployers have been involved in this mechanism.
The four organisations that have signed up to the pledge so far are Barclays, NatWest, PayPoint, and Sainsbury’s Bank and these are the ATM-deploying Members of the LINK Consumer Council. LINK will contact all its other ATM operating Members to invite them to make the same pledge. An up-to-date list will be published on LINK’s website at www.link.co.uk. This pledge will remain in place for one year to cover the period during which the impact of the COVID-19 crisis is most acute and will be reassessed annually thereafter.
This initiative guarantees that any community that faces losing access to cash will have its free ATM replaced by a Member of LINK. Direct commissioning funding of £4m has already been committed by LINK’s Members and further funding can be raised from LINK’s Members as required.
John Howells, LINK’s CEO said: “This pledge by some of the UK’s leading banks, building societies and ATM deployers to maintain the UK’s extensive free ATM network guarantees access to cash for all consumers through these challenging times.”
Natalie Ceeney CBE, independent chair, Access to Cash Review added: The Access to Cash Review warned that the UK is not ready to go cashless. The current health crisis shows how fragile the cash network is. This is a positive step by the industry to protect cash access for millions of customers who rely on it."
Notes for Editors
LINK is the national ATM Network that connects virtually all the UK’s ATMs. LINK’s role is to provide UK consumers with universal access to cash in a safe, convenient and rapid manner. LINK has 35 industry organisations as Members that issue ATM cards and/or deploy ATMs in the UK. LINK cash withdrawals account for around three-quarters of all cash withdrawals, with the remainder made up of withdrawals where cardholders use their own bank or building society’s cash machines to access their cash.
LINK’s access to cash commitment includes all 3,000 single free ATMs in remote and rural areas, all 800 single free ATMs supporting deprived areas, and all 6,500 UK high streets (defined as 5 or more shops). Every one of these locations is guaranteed to have a free ATM with 1 kilometre, unless there is another source of free cash such as a post office nearby, or if there are security issues or no available sites.
LINK is a not-for-profit organisation and governed by an independent Board, which has a clearly defined public interest remit. The latest LINK transaction figures can be found on the LINK website www.link.co.uk.
About Barclays, NatWest, PayPoint, and Sainsbury’s Bank ATMs
Sainsbury’s Bank: 1,650
LINK ATM Total: 57,800
Note this is the number of ATMs currently operational, at multiple ATM locations some machines have been closed to help social distancing.
About the LINK Consumer Council
The LINK Consumer Council, established in 2006, consists of independent people and LINK Members, chaired by Tracey Graham. The Council provides advice on consumer issues relating to the UK cash machine network and represents consumer interests. Council members are regularly refreshed to ensure consumers’ interests continue to be represented through the LINK Scheme. Further details can be found at:www.link.co.uk/initiatives/consumer-council/.