I might bank online but I need high street banks. And so do you. Research just out from Saga says that with nearly 500 high street banks closing this year, more than a quarter of the over 50s will ‘be forced’ to switch banks if their branch closes.
As one of the over 50s (surprising, I know) I wasn’t ‘forced’ to close my account when my local branch closed. But it is a blinking inconvenience not having one nearby as I found out this week. While I am usually really careful with my bank account and stay in the black, a series of unfortunate events (the bank holiday plus I forgot I had a chunky credit card payment due) pushed me into the red on Tuesday. I didn’t have quite enough to cover it in my linked account so I drove to the nearest branch nine miles away and paid in a few pounds cash to put me back in the black.
Just before I left home, we had a power cut and it wasn’t until well into the evening that I could check my account – only to find that after I’d paid in the few pounds to put me back in the black, another payment had gone through – pushing me £30 in the red by close of the banking day. The next day money went into my account putting me comfortably in the black.
I can’t bear to look at how much being in the red for a few hours is going to cost me – while I didn’t exceed my overdraft limit I think I’m going to suffer even for dipping into the permitted black. But if I’d lived near a bank branch with a deposit point (and if there hadn’t been a power cut) maybe I could have run out again and pumped more money into my account. No chance of that, though.
And frankly, things are only going to get worse. I noticed that a branch of another bank in the town where I’d dashed in the futile attempt to save myself money said it was cutting its hours. That’s the start of the end, then: I bet it will be gone in a few years. Saga’s survey found that half of those asked said that local branches should not be able to close. I’m not sure how that would work in practice, but I do think something needs to be done. It’s not just we over 50s who need bank branches – everyone does.