Free cash machines for low-income areas

More than 600 new non-charging cash machines are to be provided in Britain's poorer areas, the government has announced.

The move comes following a deal agreed between the Parliamentary ATM Working Group - chaired by John McFall MP and Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee - which includes leading banks, cash machine operators and HM Treasury.

Both Mr McFall and Economic Secretary to the Treasury Ed Balls described the deal as a "breakthrough" in order to help people in lower-income areas start up bank accounts and ensure that they can access their accounts as easily and cheaply as possible.

A number of suitable sites for free cash machines have already been identified and Mr Balls and Mr McFall are writing to MPs and local authorities across the country in order to seek their advice on more potential sites where cash machines are both needed and could be suitably placed.

There are currently 34,000 non-charging ATMs and 25,000 charging ATMs in the UK, connected to the LINK ATM network. Banks and building societies currently pay an 'interchange fee' when machines operated by other companies are used to access their accounts. As part of the agreement, a 30-50% premium per transaction will be paid to cash machine operators establishing ATMs at sites with lower customer-use in lower income areas.

Mr McFall said: "This is a huge step forward in our campaign for financial inclusion. The banks, building societies and cash machine operators who have worked with us on this plan deserve to be congratulated for their constructive and innovative work, which will mean a huge expansion in access to free cash machines for people in low income areas, vital for economic activity in those areas."

The ATM Working Group has also agreed that a strict set of rules will apply to those ATMs which continue to impose a user charge to make it absolutely clear in prominently-placed, large-type signage above and on the screen of each machine that a charge will be applied when withdrawing cash.

Mr McFall said: "We want customers to see at a glance whether a machine is free or charging. Crystal clear transparency is what is required here - prominently placed signs in suitable large type. The new recommendations include the provision of clearer on-screen information, together with larger and standardised external signage. The new rules, properly implemented and enforced, should provide a robust and enduring standard which satisfies all stakeholders."


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