How we pay for goods and services, and how we access cash are changing rapidly with rural consequences, finds Brian Wilson.

The continuing closure of bank branches, along with recent evidence about the loss of cash machines (ATMs), is building into a significant news story about access to cash.  It is one that has implications both for households and businesses, and one that has a significant rural dimension.

Consumer champion, Which, reported in September that 757 bank branches have either closed down already or are planned to close down during 2018.  By far the largest closure programmes this year are (in order) those by Royal Bank of Scotland, Nat West and Lloyds.

This means that 2,961 bank branches will have closed down over the last four years, at an average rate of 60 per month.  As previously reported by Rural England in its State of Rural Services 2016 report, a significant number of these closures have been the last branch in rural and coastal settlements.

Meanwhile, ATM network coordinator, LINK, reported last month that the number of free-to-use cash machines is now shrinking at a record rate.  Around 250 cash machines are disappearing each month, as banks and other operators remove those they deem uncommercial.


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