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 bank branches have closed since 2015?
Banks and building societies have closed (or scheduled the closure) of 4,299 branches since January 2015, at a rate of around 50 each month. Along with the rest of the figures in this article, this includes branches at 20 major current account providers.
The NatWest Group, which comprises of NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank, closed 1,086 branches during this period.
Lloyds Banking Group, made up of Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, shut down 680 sites.
Barclays is the individual bank that has reduced its network the most, with 650 branches have closed - or scheduled to - by the end of 2021.
This chart shows the actual number of branches each bank and building society has closed since 2015.
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.
As this tool is continually being updated, it may not include branches from very recent rounds of closures.
Which banks have closed the most branches since 2019?
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 443 branches still shut their doors for good.
Last year saw the lowest number of branch closures (368), as several banks shelved plans due to the pandemic. Barclays closed the most branches in 2020 (105), followed by TSB (91).
Unfortunately, it took less that three months for the number of bank closures planned for this year to outstrip those in 2020.
TSB will close 155 branches this year, while Santander is closing 111. HSBC is closing 82, Barclays will close 63 branches by the end of the first quarter, while M&S Bank is closing all its in-store branches by the end or the summer, when it will stop offering current accounts.
The chart shows the number of closures (and scheduled closures) at every brand between January 2019 and December 2021.
Which areas have been hardest hit by bank branch closures?
In terms of volume, the South East has seen the biggest reduction in branches since 2015, with 558 being shuttered.
However, Scotland will be the first location across England and the devolved nations to see over half of its banks close, with the total reaching 532 by the end of the year.
Royal Bank of Scotland has closed 158 branches in Scotland since 2015, while Bank of Scotland has shut 109.
In the South East, 103 NatWest branches were shuttered, as well as 101 Lloyds branches, and 92 Barclays branches.
This chart shows bank and building society losses at a regional level from January 2015 to the end of 2021 (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.
By the end of 2021, it will be joined by four more more: Sheffiled Hallam, Bradford South, Warrington North and Erith and Thamesmead. Across the five, 397,000 people will be left without a bank in their local constituency.
A further 20 constituencies are down to their last branch.
Look up your parliamentary constituency in this table to see what the state of play is where you live.
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. NatWest 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. Banks must also inform the Financial Conduct Authority.
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 NatWest 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.
NatWest 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.
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.