Preston has lost one in nine of its ‘hole in the wall’ cash machines in just over a year, according to shock new figures.
And coupled with unprecedented bank closures both locally and nationally, there are urgent warnings the UK could be “sleepwalking into a cashless society.”
Data from the ATM network Link shows that in February this year there were 294 cash machines in the Preston area - down from 332 at the end of 2017. Those 38 closures represent an 11 per cent fall in just 14 months.
And while the majority (256) are still free to use, the number now introducing a fee to dispense cash is rising at an alarming rate.
The figures have set alarm bells ringing, with an estimated eight million adults - around one in six of the UK population - still totally reliant on notes and coins.
Accessing money is becoming increasingly more difficult as thousands of bank branches have closed their doors and millions of their customers join the “tap and go” world of contactless cards.
And the situation has become so worrying that the Government has been urged to step in with plans to ensure people can still get to their cash as ATMs and banks disappear from the high street.
MPs on the Treasure Select Committee have called for urgent action to prevent large areas of the country being cut off from cash altogether.
“We need to guarantee people’s rights to access cash and ensure they can still spend it,” said Natalie Ceeney, chairman of the Access To Cash Review.
“ATM and bank branch closures are just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath there is a huge infrastructure which is becoming increasingly unviable as cash use declines.
“There are worrying signs that our cash system is falling apart.”
A report by consumer watchdog Which? found almost 1,700 previously free cash machines had begun charging users in the first three months of this year. Of those 1,250 switched over in March alone.
Those machines now charge us a minimum of 95p for accessing our own money.
Consumers have been warned that a further 5,000 ATMs are likely to introduce a fee in the coming months.
Cardtronics, the UK’s biggest cash machine operator, blamed a recent move by Link to cut the fee operators receive from banks for providing free cash withdrawals.
That fee went down from 25p to 22.5p and now independent operators are claiming their ATMs are no longer profitable.