The boss of the country’s biggest ATM operator is calling for an urgent overhaul of the way the country’s cash machine network is funded so that access to money is maintained nationwide.
The plea from Marc Terry, head of Cardtronics, comes as experts examine ways of ensuring cash is not made obsolete by the rise of contactless payments and the closure of bank branches and ATMs.
Cardtronics operates 17,500 cash machines, but is being prevented from expanding its network by the refusal of banks to pay a ‘fair’ fee when their customers use one of its ATMs. This is known as the ‘interchange’ fee and it has been cut in recent years, making it increasingly difficult for providers such as Cardtronics and NoteMachine to survive.
Overhaul: Cardtronics has been forced to cull its ATM network from a high of 22,000 while making half of its machines fee charging rather than free-to-use
Cardtronics has been forced to cull its ATM network from a high of 22,000 while making half of its machines fee charging rather than free-to-use.
Terry believes that for consumers to continue to be offered payment choice, the interchange fee should be increased.
He says: ‘There is a massive anti-cash campaign going on – orchestrated by the banks – and we need to fight back.
‘I am pro choice and that means a nationwide ATM network spread across towns, urban and metropolitan areas. That can only happen with a higher interchange fee.’
In 2018, the fee Cardtronics received from banks whose customers used its machines was cut from 28.3p to 25.9p. A recent study by consultants KPMG suggested that the charge should be increased to just above 29p. But it has not been acted upon by Link, which oversees the fees system.
Terry would also like to see the greater use of ‘zonal’ pricing, with these fees varying according to an ATM’s location. So cash machine operators in cities would be paid a much lower fee than those running them in rural areas. Such pricing variation does currently exist, but not to the extent that Cardtronics would like.
The Government has promised to legislate to ensure guaranteed free access to money. Cash czar Natalie Ceeney is overseeing a number of pilot schemes designed to keep money on the high street.
Link says: ‘It should not be down to banks and commercial ATM companies to decide whether a community gets free cash access, which is the position today.’