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

Nationwide has promised not to leave communities without a branch, but there are alternatives if you don't live near one.

Nationwide has promised that every town and city with one of their branches will still have one in May 2021.

Whilst the building society hasn't ruled out closing some branches - potentially affecting customers in isolated city suburbs - it will invest £350 million to improve branches over the next five years.

The announcement comes shortly after Santander announced it will close 140 branches and Lloyds announced a trial scheme enabling small retailers to offer cashback.

Nationwide currently has 650 branches, meaning many communities don't have a branch and so won't benefit. You can see if you live near one using this tool.

Nor do all Nationwide account holders have equal access to branch services. The high-interest FlexDirect account, which pays a market-leading 5% rate, can't be managed in branches.

Those in need of a branch should opt for the free Flex Account, or the FlexPlus packaged account, which includes insurance and other perks for a £13/month fee.

Find a new current account with loveMONEY

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 with the continuing closure of bank branches.

In 2018, 211 branch closures have been announced by the RBS, Lloyds and Halifax; more than one every day. The year before, 762 branches disappeared from UK streets, with as little as 12 weeks notice.

Rather than wait for the worst to happen, why not act now so you don’t lose vital access to your money. Here are four alternatives:

Cashback from small shops

Lloyds Bank and Visa are trialling a scheme where small retailers like 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, which are yet to be announced, could be eligible to offer cash back.

Nor is it clear how customers will identify participating stores. Crucially, Lloyds has pointed out that 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.

However, they say that the long-term aim is for purchases not to be necessary.

Lloyds have stated that the cashback scheme is "not a substitute for ATMs or branches"; 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 years and are now easier to use than internet banking on your computer, with many allowing you to log in using just your thumbprint rather than complicated passwords.

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 back to a branch.

Therefore 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.

Us the Post Office instead

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

Some 99% of personal banking customers and three-quarters of business banking customers can use the Post Office for withdrawing and depositing cash or cheques and checking your 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’ll need a paying in slip and deposit envelope from your bank (they should give you this for free if asked).

And for account queries, changing details or applying for bank accounts you will need to phone your bank directly or travel 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’s and Tesco both offer current accounts and in fact, M&S’s current account currently has one of the most generous switching offers on the market right now

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 deposit and withdraw up to £500 at selected larger Tesco stores (listed here).

However, 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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