Free Cash Withdrawals At Petrol Stations Are On Borrowed Time

If you’ve been enjoying free cash withdrawals at petrol stations, don’t get too comfortable. The days of charge-free ATMs are coming to an end…

No More Free Cash Withdrawals 

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) has issued warning concerning free cash withdrawals at petrol stations. It’s told its members that ‘pay to use’ policies are being introduced, often without warning. The result is that customers are being charged £1.99 to withdraw cash. This is a response to the sharp decline in monetary transactions. Only three in ten are now made with physical currency. As a result, ATM operators are ‘facing new economic realities’.

As it stands, there are around 3,750 ATMs littered across the nation’s petrol stations. Around 67% of these are free at the point of use. The PRA believes this will change and soon. Its chairman, Brian Madderson, is appealing to the Competition Markets Authority concerning the issue. He’s stated, “ATM usage fees now pose a major concern for the UK economy, as access to cash; particularly amongst low-income households or those in rural areas – becomes ever more restricted”.

Madderson has emphasised the inequality that is likely to arise if fees are introduced. For instance, it’s improbable that ATMs located in cities and supermarkets will introduce charges. It’ll therefore be more vulnerable and isolated communities, especially rural ones, that’ll most likely be hit. He’s addressed this in a letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak. In the letter he said, “we want equality and a uniform price for all withdrawals. There should not be one rule for big business and another for smaller operators. There is a cost to providing this service and so if ATMs must have a transaction fee, then it should be the same for all machines”.

An Economic Reality

The idea of being charged to access one’s own money stings and will undoubtedly frustrate motorists. But it’s part of a broader trend that is seeing the use of hard currency decline. The practicality of card-based transactions, especially with the rise of contactless payments, cannot be denied. As a consequence, the future of cash is by no means certain. Whether we’ll dispense with it one day is a matter of conjecture, but its importance is clearly declining. As a result, it may not simply be petrol station ATMs that start to introduce charges; the same phenomenon may occur elsewhere, too.

For motorists, fuel expenses are a major source of expenditure. The average driver spends £60,000 on fuel over the course of a lifetime. Adding £1.99 to each visit simply to withdraw cash makes little sense. We’re arguably better off withdrawing it elsewhere, for free, or simply reducing our dependence of cash in the first place if possible.

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