BARELY 6 per cent of Britain’s motorway services are free to use for drivers withdrawing cash, a report by consumer watchdogs will today reveal.
Out of 98 service areas on the motorway network, just six have free-to-use cash machines. The other 92 have cash dispensers which charge between £1.85 and £1.99 to motorists who want to withdraw money.
The spread of fee-charging cash machines is a growing bugbear for millions of Britons, said consumer champions Which?
It found 96 per cent of Brits resent being charged for the right to withdraw their own money from an ATM (automatic teller machine).
While there are plenty of free-to-use ATMs, there are also some areas where there is no choice but to pay the fee, said Which?
Using figures from Link, the national network of cash machines, there are 328 fee-charging ATMs in the main buildings of motorway services and just 18 free ones. Those 18 are spread between just six sites, although three of these are all in a cluster of services in Cumbria run by Westmorland – two for cars and one for truckers.
The other three are the Heart of Scotland services north of the Border, Rivington Services near Bolton and Stop24 serving cross-channel travellers in Folkestone.
Separately, Which? found a further 23 free-to-use machines at petrol stations alongside motorway service areas. It argued that drivers should see if shops in these areas will give them cash back if they pay by card, no matter how small the purchase.
Motorway services operator Moto said it was the machine operators and not Moto themselves who levied the fee, but usage was going down as more used chip and pin.
Research by Which? suggests most Brits will ignore fee-charging machines even if it means they have to go without getting their cash out for a little longer.
Just over three in four – 77 per cent – refuse to use the pay-to-use machines out of principle, they found. However, 32 per cent of Britons who have ever used a fee-charging machine have done so at a motorway service station, while 37 per cent have used one in a local shop.
Most only use them when they feel they have no alternative, although this is more common in poorer areas. Such machines can charge between 75p to £10 to use, said Which?
It found that in deprived Tottenham, North London, for instance, 27 out of 35 machines surveyed levied a charge and of the eight free ones, five were at a large Tesco store. But in upmarket Kensington and Chelsea only eight of 49 machines charged and four of these were in casinos.
ATMs are part of day-to-day life in Britain with 2.87 billion withdrawals per year, adding up to £19 billion taken out of the so-called hole-in-the-wall machines. Which? money researcher David Paine said: “We think banks and private cash machine operators need to keep working together to give people more chance to access their cash for free and ensure they’re not trapped in areas where the only option is to pay.”