SCOTS bank customers are now paying nearly £10million a year to withdraw their own money as free cash machines close at a record rate.

New figures show that in the midst of cash machine cuts and bank closures, Scots are estimated to have forked out £9.5m in 2019 alone – nearly double that of 2018 when banks took in £5m from their customers.

The reason for the large increase is more cash machines now charge users for withdrawals as banks have cut the amount they pay the companies that run ATMs since July 2018.

Previously banks paid an "interchange fee" to these providers for each cash withdrawal, but Link, the ATM network, has started a series of cuts to these. This has resulted in either cash machines being axed or ATM providers passing the cost on to the public in fees ranging from 95p to £2 per transaction.

READ MORE: More than 40 cash machines shut down every month in Scotland

Banks and card issuers have already saved £120million in Scotland alone since 2018 because of the dramatic decline in the number of cash machines, according to the new figures from LINK, the overseers of the UK's largest cash machine network which has 38 member institutions, of which many are various banks and building societies.

The Herald:

The consumer organisation Which? has described the new figures as a "sheer mismanagement" of the cash landscape.

The SNP’s Ronnie Cowan, the Inverclyde MP, has also met officials from UK Finance and LINK to discuss “the need for action” after it emerged that customers were soon to be charged to use 12 cash machines in his constituency alone.

The cost to Scots for getting access to their money comes as Which? found that the amount paid by consumers across the UK leapt by £29m in 2018 to £104m in 2019 as many free machines vanished or were converted to charge fees.

Last month, the Herald revealed that one in four of Scotland's cash machines were now charging customers to take their money with the number soaring by 68% in just one year.

According to LINK data, there were 1396 pay to use ATMS in Scotland at the end of last year - 565 more that the previous year.

It led to fresh demands for action to preserve the nation’s access to cash, as bank branches vanish.

On top of that, the rate of loss of free-to-use cash machines in Scotland rose to 14 every week in the year. That’s up from one in ten in the year to July.

There were 4470 non-charging ATMs at the end of November - with 743 disappearing in a year.

Scotland has already seen over 400 bank branches close since 2015, making it one of the worst affected areas in the UK, and often the cashpoints will also go. Banks who have made the cuts consistently say that it is the result of customers preferring to use online, mobile or telephone banking while usage of branches has fallen.

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Last week a further 15 bank branches felt the weight of the axe, as Bank of Scotland announced new cuts.

It had previously closed 95 branches between 2014 and 2019.

These changes have seen the estimated number of times people across the UK have had to pay to withdraw cash increase from 46m in 2018 to 73m in 2019 - a rise of 59 per cent in a single year. The banks are also saving vast sums through branch closures - with 1,203 having closed across the UK since January 2018 alone, according to Which?

Concerns about the way cashpoints were being funded were first highlighted in December 2017, with concerns it might lead to a cut in access to free withdrawals.

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Which said: "Two years on these new figures show the sheer mismanagement of the cash landscape, which is seeing people cut off from cash - or forced to pay significant fees to access it.

"Digital banking and payments have brought many benefits to consumers in the UK, but it’s crucial that the transition is better managed to ensure all those still reliant on cash aren’t forced to pay just to access it."

The consumer organisation is reinforcing its call for government to intervene with legislation that protects free access to cash for as long as it is needed.

But in November it emerged that ministers had refused to intervene over concerns the UK is sleepwalking into a cashless society.

A government response says it expects commitment from the industry to protect access to banking and cash for those that need it.

It said that it cannot determine banks' commercial strategies in response to changes in the way people bank.

Gareth Shaw, head of money with Which?, said: “Massive cuts to the UK’s bank branch and cash machine networks have been highly lucrative for the big banks - but highly costly for millions of consumers. Entire communities have been cut off from cash or forced to pay hefty fees to access their own money.

“Banks must take greater responsibility for ensuring customers are supported to make the transition to digital if branches close and that those who are reliant on cash are not left behind by changes to the banking landscape.

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“The Budget is a major opportunity for the government to introduce much-needed legislation that protects access to cash and free withdrawals for as long as this vital payment method is needed.”

John Howells, chief executive of LINK added: “People don’t like paying to access their money and LINK agrees with them. As people use less cash, many ATMs will become less economically viable which means some ATMs will switch to charging.

“What’s important is that we continue to have a broad, extensive UK-wide free to use network. LINK is committed to ensuring that every UK high street has free cash access via ATMs and Post Offices. We are also keen on initiatives that will incentivise retailers to provide free cashback for consumers.

“Communities with poor access to cash are coming to LINK through our Community Request an ATM scheme.