Bank branch and ATM closures: 4 other ways to manage your money


Updated on 24 September 2019 | 9 Comments

With more than 3,000 UK bank branches closing over the last four and a half years, here are your options if your last bank in town closes.

Approximately 30% of all UK bank and building society branches have shut down over the past four and a half years, according to research by Which?

The ‘Big Four’ banks – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and RBS Group – account for nearly two-thirds of all closures over this period.

Royal Bank of Scotland closed 74% of its branches between January 2015 and August 2019, equivalent to 412 branches while NatWest shut 49% (638 branches).

HSBC slashed 40% of its network (442) while Lloyds Banking Group shut 25% of its overall network (404).

Below is a table of the number of bank closures below over the past four and a half years.

Bank Branch closures
   
NatWest 638
Barclays* 481
HSBC 442
RBS 412
Lloyds 404
Santander 294
Co-op 152
Bank of Scotland 95
TSB 89
Yorkshire Bank 74
Halifax 70
Clydesdale Bank 60
Ulster Bank 44
Nationwide 26
First Trust 15
Bank of Ireland 8
Danske Bank  6
Virgin  2
   
Total closures: 3,312  

Source: Which?

*Figure may be higher, closure information not fully disclosed

Looking at the areas with the most bank closures, the worst-hit areas are usually rural. Wentworth and Dearne in Yorkshire has become the first UK constituency to lose all its bank branches.

You can use the table by Which? below to find out the most affected constituencies and how much of its network has been lost since January 2015.

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The disappearance of cash machines

Elderly and vulnerable people without access to the internet are finding it more difficult to manage their money.

The number of cash machines is falling, in part due to contactless payments, with some areas left without any free-to-use ATMs.

Depositing cash is also getting more difficult as more bank branches have been closing.

If you do find yourself in a town where there are no physical branches here are four alternatives to manage your money.

Cashback from small shops

In February, Lloyds Bank and Visa announced they are trialling a scheme where small retailers such as newsagents will offer cashback.

You won't need to be a Lloyds customer or Visa card user to benefit.

Around 50,000 merchants in at-risk target areas could be eligible to offer cashback although it is not clear how customers will identify participating stores.

Lloyds says merchants will have support to advertise its cashback service.

Crucially, Lloyds flagged you'll still need to make a purchase to get cashback, so it's probably more comparable to a fee-charging ATM at the minute.

“The intention is that retailers will soon be able to offer cashback without the need for a purchase,” commented the bank.

Lloyds have stated the cashback scheme is "not a substitute for ATMs or branches" so you won't be able to deposit cheques or manage your bank account.

Opinion: Why I always carry cash

Mobile banking

If you can't beat them, join them.

Mobile banking apps have improved over the last few years and many are now easier to use than internet banking on your computer.

Many apps allow you to log in using just your thumbprint instead of using complicated passwords.

Some of these apps have other useful features, such as freezing your debit card or accessing cash if you’ve lost your card, all at the touch of a button.

Many banks now have specialised staff in-branch who can help you set up online banking, such as RBS and NatWest’s TechXperts and Barclays’ Digital Eagles.

There is of course one major drawback to relying on mobile banking, as customers of TSB have learned the hard way.

If a bank’s systems go down, you could find yourself unable to access your money and may need to go to a branch.

We recommend setting up a backup bank account or at least a credit card.

New to mobile banking? You can learn more about how each app works with our series of app reviews.

Use the Post Office instead

If you aren't keen on the app route, then head to your local Post Office.

The majority of personal banking customers and three-quarters of business banking customers can use the Post Office for withdrawing and depositing cash or cheques and to check their bank balance.

It’s free and there’s no need to register, just bring your debit card with you. You can find your local Post Office branch here.

It’s by no means a like-for-like replacement for a local bank branch, so you’ll find some services are more restricted.

For example, to pay in cheques you may need a paying in slip and deposit envelope from your actual bank (they should give you this for free if asked).

For account queries, changing details or applying for bank accounts, you will need to phone your bank directly or go to a branch.

Supermarket banking

Bank branches may be disappearing from Britain’s high streets, but there are still plenty of supermarkets, many of which now offer banking services.

Marks & Spencer and Tesco both offer current accounts with the former currently offering a generous switching offer.

A small number of M&S stores (full list here) have a bank manager who can help you manage your account and apply for products.

Tesco Bank customers can withdraw up to £500 and deposit up to £2,000 at selected larger Tesco stores (listed here).

Even Tesco Metro stores generally include an ATM where you can check your account balance and withdraw money.

You can compare bank accounts – including Post Office and the supermarkets – on loveMONEY’s comparison site.

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