Cash machines could disappear within next 10 years, leading to fears there will be ‘ATM deserts’ in remote communities.
The warning comes from John Howells, boss of Link, who believes paper money transactions will face a huge drop as people turn to contactless spending and online shopping.
Mr Howells believes the fall in cash withdrawals will make ATMs unprofitable and cause them to shut down, raising concerns that isolated areas will lose access to cash.
Customers will instead have to withdraw money from shop tills, making store owners criminal targets as they will be forced to hold onto huge reserves of money.
He told the Mail Online: ‘In a five to ten-year window, there will come a point where we’ll have to not have ATMs. We need other ways for consumers to access cash, and the obvious way is through retailers’ tills.’
ATM closures would mean some people would have to travel miles to withdraw cash, as thousands of small businesses, pubs and cafes throughout the country do not accept cards.
The warning comes as banks close branches in towns and villages where they can’t make profit, leaving customers having to rely on cash machines only.
Lobby groups fear it is a plan to end cash for good.
Mike Cherry, of the Federation of Small Businesses, told the newspaper: ‘The suggestion that retailers could take on the role of handing out cash means putting a burden on to firms, which are often small and have issues accessing cash themselves.’
Banks are currently rowing over fees, with Lloyds and RBS pushing for a cut in the charges they pay when one of their customers withdraws money from another ATM operator.
Link, which runs 70,000 machines in the UK, is planning to cut these fees by 20 perent – but it has led to worries that towns and villages will be left without a free cash machine.
Treasury select committee chairman Nicky Morgan said: ‘There have been concerns that the proposals could lead to “ATM deserts” for communities.’
But Mr Howells said he want to keep free cash machines open as long as he can, even though they cost £30,000 a year to run.