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 the 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 since 2015?
Banks and building societies closed (or scheduled the closure) of 3,509 branches since January 2015, at a rate of around 55 each month. Along with the rest of the figures in this article, this includes branches at 20 major current account providers.
The RBS Group, which comprises of NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank, closed 1,085 branches during the period.
Lloyds Banking Group, made up of Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, shut down 612 sites.
This chart shows how many branches each bank and building society has closed since 2015. The figure for Barclays is likely to be underestimated because they are not willing to share complete closure information with us.
Use our bank branch closure checker
To find out whether your local bank branch is closing or has recently closed, we've created a unique tool to show shutting down branches in your local authority.
Simply select your bank and enter your postcode to find out which branches closed recently and which are about to be lost.
Which banks have closed the most branches in 2019 and 2020?
Bank branch closures reached their peak in 2017, when 868 sites were lost around the UK, at a rate of more than 70 a month. Similarly, some 794 branches closed in 2018.
In 2019, the rate rate of closures slowed, although some 405 branches still shut their doors for good. Between 600 and 700 branches were lost in both 2015 and 2016.
Between January 2018 and December 2019, RBS closed the most branches (277) closely followed by Barclays (244) and Natwest (197).
At present, there are 164 closures scheduled for 2020. TSB plans to close 82 branches, Lloyds plans to shut 31 and HSBC plans to close 27 branches . We expect there'll be more major announcements before the end of the year.
The chart shows the number of closures (and scheduled closures at every brand since January 2018.
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, with 447 being shuttered.
Scotland and the South East aren't far behind, with 335 and 446 branches disappearing respectively.
Royal Bank of Scotland has closed 158 branches in Scotland. Bank of Scotland has shut 94, while Clydesdale has closed 64.
In the South East, 103 NatWest branches were shuttered, as well as 91 Lloyds branches, and 73 HSBC branches. It's likely that Barclays have closed more branches than HSBC, but it's impossible to tell because Barclays have not shared complete data with us - they are the only brand to opt out of full transparency.
This chart shows bank and building society losses at a regional level from January 2015 to the end of 2020 (projected).
Local bank branch closures: how does your area fare?
We've also broken down the data at the level of parliamentary constituency to get an even more granular snapshot of where losses are being most keenly felt.
Wentworth and Dearne in Yorkshire has the dubious distinction of being the first constituency to lose all of its branches. A further eight constituencies have only one branch left, while a further 18 have only two.
Look up your parliamentary constituency in this table to see what the state of play is where you live.
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.
Support our Freedom to Pay campaign
Cash is a necessity millions couldn’t live without, and a backup for everyone when online systems fail. But with card and digital payments becoming more and more popular and bank branches closing at an alarming rate, we’re concerned some people may be left behind.
Help us protect cash as a payment option by signing our petition.
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.