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Every year more bank branches are closing down – but does it really matter? Here’s what you can do if your local shut its doors.

Where I live there have been three banks for as long as I can remember. Until last year that is, when the HSBC was shut down. Now the NatWest is due to close its doors, which will leave a solitary Barclays branch. And who knows how long it will last.

You see, that’s not the only closure. There are 482 banks due to close this year. 482! And hundreds more have already shut down in the last few years.

It sounds bad, doesn’t it? How are we meant to do our banking if we don’t have access to an actual bank?

I visited my bank and it was empty

My first thought when I hear news stories like this is it’ll be ok. Despite having HSBC, Barclays and NatWest accounts at different times while I’ve lived here, I’ve only visited the Barclays branch once.

Most of my banking is done online, and there are new apps launched every month for banks which are online only. It’s a trend most people are following.

And this shows. Last week I visited a bank for the first time in a year. I walked to my TSB near work at lunchtime expecting a bit of a wait. It was empty. Literally not a single customer except me. Now, this is central London, surrounded by offices and workers. And with it being 1pm you’d expect it to be peak time. But it was dead. There are branches for various other banks nearby, and they were all pretty empty too.

According to the British Bankers’ Associaton, the average high street bank gets just 71 visitors a day, and this is expected to drop even further. So do we even need them?

When I’ve used banks in the last year

Ok, I’ve only been to a bank branch a couple of times in the last 12 months, but that’s still two times more than none at all.

Most recently was last week’s TSB visit to pay in some cash. I rarely have large sums on me but I bought something for my parents and it was easier for them to give me cash than transfer it. Without a physical place to visit – whether that’s a closed down branch or online only bank – how would I pay in the money?

My other visit was pretty much a year ago. I had a text from Halifax saying there looked like dodgy activity on my credit card. Since there was a branch down the road from my office I decided to pop in.

Once in the branch, I was reassured the text was legitimate and we looked into fixing the problem. OK, I then had to phone a specialist team, but I definitely felt better talking to someone face to face.

And the question is what do would I do if there were no branches?

What do to if your branch closes

Yes, I think there’s still a need for local branches, and even more so for people who aren’t keen on digital banking. My parents, for example, don’t use online or app banking. Where they live the Barclays is already closed on Wednesdays, and if that goes there won’t be many other options.

But there are a few things you can do:

Use a Post Office

A new scheme that started this year means all Post Offices can be used to pay in or withdraw money from accounts held at most major banks.

Withdrawal limits are based on how much you could take out from a cash machine, and of course, it means even longer queues in the post office!

>> Find out what banks are part of the scheme

Switch bank

This only works if there are alternative banks in your area, but it’s now very easy to switch to a new bank. It should take jut seven working days, and there are often some decent cash bonuses available.

>> Find out all the latest bank switching offers

Move your banking online

It can be a bit of a pain to remember all your login details, but once you get the hang of online banking it’s actually great. Plus, apps on smartphones mean you can check your balance and pay people on the move.

Pay people with your phone rather than cash

Another benefit of using your phone is you can transfer cash using people’s mobile phone number. The other person needs have registered for PAYM, but then it’s a simple case of opening your app and typing in the phone number.

Is your bank closing?

RBS, Natwest, HSBC, Halifax, Lloyds and Bank of Scotland are among the banks closing branches this year. You can use this interactive map from Which? to see if your local branch is among them.

 

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