Thousands of free to use ATMs could be removed from convenience stores due to a cut in the fees paid from card companies to ATM operators.

According to the ACS, the cuts would: “Change the economic model for offering ATMs,” and the ATM Industry Association added that the removal of no longer profitable machines will lead to “ATM deserts.” The association said more than 10,000 free to use machines are at risk.

The suggestion of cutting the fee from 25p to 20p per withdrawal was made by dominant cash machine network operator Link. If the fee change is approved, it will come into force on April 1 next year.

 The operator says it is in response to increasing numbers of machines serving a decreasing number of transactions per year. It said it aims to reduce the number of machines “where there are currently multiple ATMs very close together.”

Any plans to reduce numbers would have a severe impact on retailers. Research by Yourcash found that 75% of retailers expect a convenience store to have a free ATM, and having an ATM increases basket spend by 65%.

ACS CEO James Lowman warned Link and the government of the potential consequences stating: “The impact will be felt not just by the retailer the machine is removed from, but by other shops, small businesses and markets which benefit from customers having cash to spend.”

According to ATM Industry Association exec director Ron Delnevo, stores in deprived areas will be worst affected. "An unwarranted shake-up of Link will hit the most hard-up the heaviest,” he said.

There are currently more than 56,000 free to use cash machines in the UK. While Link accepts that the fee reduction will lead to a reduction in numbers, it says there will still be a full network of locations. Link CEO John Howells it was “Committed to maintaining an extensive network of free-to-use cash machines.”