Consumer group Which? has urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to protect cash access at his first Budget.
In an open letter, the group flagged the industry warnings to demand legislation to secure the future of the ATM network.
Some 9,500 free-to-use cash machines disappeared in the past two years, and more than 1,200 bank branches have closed in the same period.
Link, the UK’s largest cashpoint network, has said that the free cash system will collapse within just two years without government intervention, the group noted.
“The precipitous decline of cash usage underway is already placing severe strain on the UK’s cash infrastructure,” the group quoted John Howells, Link chief executive, as saying.
“Link, with the banks’ support, has maintained free ATM coverage so far, and will be able to continue to do so for the next year or two, but without government support, the infrastructure will start to fall apart.”
A ‘Request an ATM’ scheme launched in October 2019 by Link has got 274 requests to date, but the network has indicated that it may only have the funding for as few as 100 new cash machines.
However, Which? said it has received 3,153 cash machine requests through its recently launched tool.
Gareth Shaw, Which? head of money, said: ‘Many people have been left struggling from the double blow of cashpoint and bank branch closures – and suffered at the hands of industry mismanagement that has left Britain’s cash landscape on the verge of collapse.
“This Budget will decide the future of cash. The Chancellor has a huge opportunity here to protect cash for the millions of people who rely on it.”