According to Which? Cash point machines are disappearing at an “alarming” rate, between June and December last year 488 ATMs vanished whilst 250 free to-use machines also closed.
Which? Said that “urgent regulatory action” is needed to protect cash as a payment method.
Jenni Allen, managing director, Which? Money said, “We have serious concerns that the alarming rate of cashpoint and bank branch closures risks leaving people facing an uphill battle to access the cash they rely on.
“Cash is also a vital backup as fallible digital payments grow in popularity – so the Government must appoint a regulator to oversee these changes and ensure no-one is excluded and left struggling to go about their daily lives.”
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said, “The rapid pace of bank branch and cashpoint closures is hurting small businesses all over the UK.”
Adding, “With our cash infrastructure increasingly under attack, it’s time for a regulator to be given explicit responsibility for protecting access to notes and coins.”
ATM network Link recently said that cash machine operators will be given “super premiums” to enable remote areas to keep ATMs from April.
It is thought 1,000 cash point machines will initially be eligible and enhanced premiums will vary in size, depending on how busy the ATM is used.
A spokesman for trade association UK Finance said, “Bank branches play an important role in the life of local communities and decisions to close them are never taken lightly.
“This is why all the high street banks have arranged for everyday banking services to be available through 11,500 Post Offices across the country and mobile bank branches to reach more rural communities, while investing in the existing ATM network to ensure continuity of service when ATMs are no longer commercially viable to operate.”
A spokesman for Link said, “Link agrees with Which? that free access to cash is vital for consumers.
“Link’s financial inclusion programme is key to ensuring that the UK’s cash infrastructure continues to deliver free access to cash for consumers regardless of the marked decline in cash usage.”
A spokesman for the Treasury said, “Technology has transformed banking for millions of people, making it easier and quicker to carry out financial transactions and pay for services.
“This is to be welcomed, but we also recognise the continued importance of cash, especially for more vulnerable people.
“In 2015 we set up the Payment Systems Regulator to ensure that the UK’s payment systems work in the interests of their users, and they are closely monitoring developments within ATM provision.
“While the decision to close bank branches is a commercial decision, we understand the impact it can have on communities.
“Banks must now give customers as much notice as possible when a branch is closing, and ensure they are made aware of the options they have locally to continue to access banking services.”