Almost 3,000 bank branches have closed down since 2015 or are due to shut this year, new research has revealed.
Worryingly, the consumer group found that the rate of closures has accelerated since 2016. This year is on track to overtake 2017, when 879 branches closed their doors for good, the research found.
Access to banking services is further under threat from the possibility of cash machines being removed from communities as the result of changes to the way banks pay operators.
This could lead to an estimated 2.7 million people who are almost totally reliant on cash struggling to access their preferred method of payment.
The worst hit region is Scotland which will have seen 368 branches close in that period.
Elsewhere, banks have closed 361 branches in the Southeast of England, 353 in the Northwest and 327 in the Southwest. Natwest have been the worst offender, shutting or planning to shut 638 branches. This is followed by HSBC with 440 closures, Lloyds with 366, and RBS with 350.
Which? money expert, Gareth Shaw, said: “Bank branch closures are happening at an alarming rate – with almost 60 shutting every month – stripping customers and communities of access to the financial services they need.
“While the decision is clearly a commercial one for a bank to take, it is also crucial that banks do recognise the needs of their customers and the communities they serve, before simply shutting their doors – and their customers out.”
Standards introduced in 2015 require banks to engage with their customers and communities they serve ahead of planned closures. The consumer group said this means that there should be a “robust consultation” with a bank’s customers before financial services are removed from an area.
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