Link rule change will boost charge-free ATMs

Banks and building societies that are part of the Link network can now offer financial incentives to encourage cash machine operators to install free-to-use machines in target areas.

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Banks and building societies that are part of the Link network can now offer financial incentives to encourage cash machine operators to install free-to-use machines in target areas.

Changes to Link's rules and systems, which take effect today, will support the introduction of ATMs in 300 areas where there are none that do not charge for transactions.

The move follows an agreement in December between banks, building societies, ATM operators, MPs and consumer groups to widen the free-to-use cash machine network. Consumer advocates have been concerned that poorer people lose out on access to ATM services in areas where there are no charge-free machines.

A Treasury-backed ATM Working Group identified 309 priority areas where communities of 3,000 or more people lacked convenient access to a free-of-charge ATM, as well as a number of smaller areas where a free machine was likely to be particularly valuable to a local community.

Consumer groups and financial institutions agreed that a total of about 600 new free machines was needed. So far 384 new free-to-use machines have been installed.

Commons Treasury committee chair John McFall MP, who also chairs the ATM Working Group, said: "I am delighted with the progress being made on this initiative. The uptake for these free machines in just three months has been remarkable.

The fact that firm sites have been found and agreed for nearly 400 of these machines already is a clear signal that they were much needed and welcome in the communities they are now or soon will be serving. What we need now is a final push to reach the target figure of 600, and the financial incentives to machine operators should help to achieve this goal."

Nicola O'Reilly, senior policy advocate at the National Consumer Council, said: "The NCC welcomes the industry initiative to introduce a financial inclusion premium, which is set to ensure sustained provision of free local ATMs to many of the UK's lower-income communities."

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