The Post Office is scrapping nearly a third of its 2,000 free-to-use ATMs in another blow for community access to cash.
The taxpayer-owned operation is retaining 1,400 machines and has promised to invest £16million to equip them with the latest technology.
Customers will still be able to withdraw cash over the counter at 11,500 post offices thanks to a deal with major banks. But many do not know the service exists or are put off by long queues.
Around 8,500 free-to-use ATMs have been lost around the country over the past three years and many more are expected to be removed in the wake of the pandemic.
The Post Office is scrapping nearly a third of its 2,000 free-to-use ATMs in another blow for community access to cash (file image)
Campaigners have regularly raised concerns about access to cash, saying vulnerable groups rely on coins and notes to buy everyday essentials.
The 1,400 ATMs being retained by the Post Office include nearly 60 which are not commercially viable but are in locations where the next free-to-use machine is a significant distance away.
Martin Kearsley, the company’s banking director, said: ‘Our estate of Post Office-owned and operated ATMs will see postmasters operating some of the most modern and secure ATMs in the market.
‘In the areas where we have been unable to sustainably operate the existing ATMs, customers can still withdraw cash over the counter free of charge and in a secure manner. Many of our branches are open long hours and at weekends, ensuring continued access to cash.’
Customers will still be able to withdraw cash over the counter at 11,500 post offices thanks to a deal with major banks. But many do not know the service exists or are put off by long queues (file image)
The Post Office said it had reviewed each ATM and considered factors such as weekly usage and the proximity of other free facilities. The 600 machines that will close will be shut in a phased approach by March 2022.
The Post Office does not own or operate any ATMs at its branches. They belong to its partner, the Bank of Ireland, which is exiting this area of the market in the UK.
Towards the end of 2021, the first ATM will be migrated to the Post Office estate, with all machines transferring by April 2022.
Cash use declined sharply at the start of the pandemic, with some retailers asking customers to pay by alternatives such as cards. But many people still rely on cash and there are concerns that rural and deprived communities face being cut off.
The Government has said it would legislate to protect cash and one option is for cashback to become more widely available.
Proposals also include beefing up the Financial Conduct Authority’s role in overseeing the cash system to ensure it benefits consumers as well as small and medium- sized businesses.