Our last bank closed in the spring. This week, the last remaining external cash machine was shut down. I live in a smallish town that’s a big tourist spot. Now on a Sunday there is nowhere for anyone to get cash in the high street. There are internal cash machines in the Nationwide branch and in a supermarket, neither of which open on Sundays. We do have a cash machine at the garage ten minutes’ walk away up a hill but it’s not in the town centre where the shops and cafes are.
The lack of machines in the town centre means you have to use your card in the cafes and shops. I’ve noticed from working in a local charity shop that younger shoppers are happy enough swiping their card over a machine even if it’s for a couple of pounds. But older people – and I count myself among them – like cash. And I need cash for some transactions: not everyone takes cards. I also think if you’re watching the pennies, paying in cash is a good idea: it’s all too easy to forget you’ve made a card transaction.
But it seems that cash machines are on the way out. Last month Link said that 250 free to use cash machines are disappearing every month. Between January and July 2018 the number of free ATMs dropped from 54,500 to 53,200. The BBC reported that Link, the cash machine network, has arrangements ‘to protect free to use ATMS more than 1 km away from their next nearest free-to-use ATM’. Cash machines are closing down because more people do use cards instead – but also because machines aren’t always profitable for their operators. According to the Guardian, more than 130 communities – many of them poor areas – don’t have an ATM. Yet 2.7 million Britons rely on cash.
I don’t know what the answer is here. I’m lucky enough that I have a car and can drive to find a cash machine. But I live in an area with an elderly demographic and many of the local residents don’t have cars. Their lives are potentially going to be that little bit more difficult without a cash machine.
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