Consumers are set to be charged £250m during 2006 just to withdraw their own money from cash machines, according to a new report.
Nationwide Building Society said that at the start of this decade consumers rarely had to pay to access their own cash, but the cost of charges has risen by an estimated 56 per cent during the past year alone.
The group said there were nearly 24,000 fee-charging ATMs in the UK at the end of September, a 16 per cent increase on the previous year. At the same time it warned that there was a real possibility that access to free cash machines could become limited to bank and building society branches and a few other locations such as main post offices in the next five years.
It added that during the past 12 months the number of free machines available had fallen slightly to 32,355.
Nationwide is calling for all ATMs that charge to display red warning stickers prominently so that consumers can tell at a glance that they will have to pay to withdraw their money.
At the same time it wants machines that are free to display green stickers.
Nationwide and Halifax are introducing the sticker system on their own cash machines, but the group wants to see them introduced across the whole industry.
It found that 93 per cent of people thought it was unacceptable that they were charged to withdraw their own money, while 97 per cent thought all cash machines should display red or green stickers so that people could tell easily if they would be charged a fee.