Over the past few years, bank and building society branches have been disappearing from our high streets at a frightening pace.
Banks say that this has been driven by a rapid increase in online and mobile banking, and a rapid decline in use of physical branches.
Which? has been tracking bank branch closures since 2015. In this guide, you can find out exactly what the state of play is, which banks have closed the most branches and the areas hardest hit.
And our bank branch closure checker allows you to find out which of your local branches closed recently.
How many have bank branches have closed in 2018 and 2019?
Banks and building societies have closed down, or plan to close down, a total of 1080 branches in 2018 and 2019.
The RBS Group, which comprises of NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank, will be shutting at least 484 branches over the period.
Lloyds Banking Group, made up of Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, will shut down at least 144.
Our chart shows how many branches each banks and building has closed permanently in 2018 and 2019, including those scheduled to close later this year.
Use our bank branch closure checker
To find out whether your local bank branch is closing this year, we've created a unique tool which will tell you if your bank is shutting down branches in your local authority. Simply select your bank and enter your postcode to find out which branches closed down recently.
Which banks have closed the most branches?
Which? has been tracking bank branch closures since 2015. At least 3,318 branches have been shut down in the past four and a bit years, at a rate of nearly 70-a-month.
However, Barclays has not shared all of its closure data with us. We believe this has led to an underestimation.
According to our records, some 689 were closed in 2015, and a further 638 were closed in 2016. Closures rocketed the following year when some 911 branches were shut down in 2017.
NatWest has closed, or will soon close, the most branches during the period - some 638, closely followed by HSBC, which has shut 440.
Lloyds Bank has shut down 409, while Royal Bank of Scotland has closed 412 branches.
Barclays has closed at least 433 but we believe the true figure may be higher.
The chart below shows how many branches have been closed or announced to close by 21 major banks and building societies since 2015. Skip through the tabs to see the breakdown for each year.
Which areas have been hardest hit by bank branch closures?
Banking customers in the North West have seen the biggest reduction in branches since 2015 – some 425.
Scotland and the South East aren't far behind, both seeing 403 and 410 branches disappear respectively.
Royal Bank of Scotland has closed 158 branches in Scotland. Bank of Scotland has shut 86, while Clydesdale has closed 59.
In the South East, NatWest has closed 102 branches, while Lloyds has closed 82, and HSBC some 71.
In terms of local authorities, it's the City of Edinburgh that has been worst hit with 54 closures during the period. Cornwall isn't far behind, where 52 branches have disappeared since 2015. Birmingham and Glasgow have both lost 41 branches.
Top 10 local authorities for branch closures
Mapped: bank branch closures since 2015
The map below shows every single bank and building society branch closure from 2015 to January 2019. You can use the search bar to find your local area, filter between banks or choose a year to see when branches closed or are due to close.
Why are so many bank branches closing?
The way we bank has changed dramatically over the past few years, with use of online and mobile rising and fewer people visiting branches.
According to a report published by UK Finance, the trade body that represents banks, 71% of adults used online banking in 2017, representing 38 million people.
Close to 22 million people used mobile banking apps, and there were around 5.5bn logins to apps last year.
Meanwhile, the average branch received 104 visits a day in 2017, compared to 140 per day in 2012. This represents a 26% fall in bank branch visits.
Banks and building societies say that this has been the main driver of closures. Customers' banking habits are changing, and branches are needed by fewer and fewer customers.
However, there are still plenty of people and small businesses that rely on local banks, who either don't want to or cannot engage with the digital revolution. This is particularly challenging in rural areas, where people suffer with poor broadband and mobile coverage, and higher populations of elderly customers.
There are other reasons for branch closures. RBS Group took the decision to close hundreds of Royal Bank of Scotland branches in England and Wales because it now allows customers of that brand to bank in a local NatWest branch. This meant it was running two branches in a high street when there was only a need for one.
Yorkshire Building Society merged with Barnsley, Chelsea and Norwich & Peterborough building societies between 2008 and 2011. The mergers resulted in multiple high street locations within the same town, leading to closures.
What are the alternatives to bank branches?
Under the Access to Banking Standard, introduced in 2015, banks have a requirement to engage their customers and communities ahead of planned closure, and offer alternative means of banking when a branch closes.
These are some of the solutions on offer:
Using the Post Office
According to UK Finance, 99% of retail banking customers can carry out basic banking at one of 11,547 Post Offices across the UK.
Post Office banking services are limited to these activities:
- Withdrawing cash from your current account
- Checking your balance
- Paying in cash and cheques (for cheques, you'll need a paying-in slip from your bank and an extra day or two for them to clear)
The list of what you can’t do is substantially longer, whether transferring money from your account, or seeking advice and making enquiries about other financial products such as savings or mortgages.
Banks themselves usually demand that customers call into a local branch for anti-fraud checks, or to make an appointment to discuss more complex matters and important legal documents, such as lasting power of attorney or grant of probate.
None of these tasks can be completed at a Post Office.
For more on the effect of bank branch closures on communities, and the limitations of the Post Office as an alternative to bank branches, read our news story and watch the video below:
Mobile banking vans
Both the RBS Group and Lloyds Banking Group offer mobile banking vans, which visit local communities and allow you to cash cheques, make deposits and withdrawals, and pay bills.
RBS Group deploys 'Community Bankers' - professional bank staff who travel to areas with no branches and meet customers in shared local spaces, such as libraries, council buildings or leisure centres.
They can have discussions about financial issues, help people find out other ways to bank and at least give customers without a branch face-to-face assistance.
Many banks offer help to get people feeling comfortable with using mobile and online banking.
RBS has a team of TechXperts, based in branches helping people set up online and mobile banking. They can help people download apps on their devices and show customers how to use them.
Barclays runs a similar initiative through its Digital Eagles, also helping customers use the internet for broader tasks, such as online shopping, setting up email address and staying safe online.
Which? research on bank branch closures
Which? collected bank branch closure data by tracking announcements and contacted banks to confirm our figures. When a bank has refused to do this we have included our unconfirmed figures. Only Barclays has not confirmed its data on branch closures.