DEBATE: One in five cash points are at risk of closing – but do we really need ATMs anymore?

Protesters attack an ATM during a mass d
The UK is moving towards a cashless society (Source: Getty)

One in five cash points are at risk of closing – but do we really need ATMs anymore?

Ron Delnevo, executive director Europe for the ATM Industry Association, says YES.

A very small number of banks appear to have decided that there are too many ATMs in the UK, but with bank branches closing, people are feeling the opposite. In fact, withdrawals at non-branch ATMs are on the up.

It’s true that we are currently seeing more variety out there in terms of how people choose to pay. But you can’t argue with the fact that cash is still being used 25 per cent more often than the second most popular payment method – debit cards. Last year, a staggering 76 per cent of payments in local shops were made in cash. Reducing free ATMs would be the final nail in the coffin of many small businesses and local high streets.

Banks that do not want to provide this service for their customers themselves must expect to pay the true price for others to provide it for them.

If they will not agree to do so, the regulators and the government must to act to guarantee LINK ATM services are maintained and improved.

Read more: Monzo's introducing new ATM fees: Here's how much you'll pay

Abhijit Deb, head of banking and financial services (UK and Ireland) at Cognizant, says NO.

With big brands continuing to innovate, from introducing contactless card technology to smartphone payments, we have seen much of the public gravitate to new methods. Convenience is obviously a big factor, but digital payments’ ability to tackle electronic fraud with improved identity verification is also a massive driver.

Regulatory changes, such as the European IFR regulation, should lower the barrier for smaller merchants looking to go cashless, held back in the past by setup costs and card fees. With acquirers also working to bring them into the cashless fold, we are likely to see more cash-reliant shoppers become exposed to digital payments.

The UK is moving towards a cashless society and banks are rightly investing in giving customers access to a range of payment options that do not rely on cash. However, before ATMs disappear completely, the digital payments ecosystem must be enhanced to make it a universally viable option, so consumers can be confident that issues like payment rejections or electronic fraud won’t be a problem.

Read more: Open Banking and PSD2 are a boon to banks, not a burden

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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