As more people turn to online and mobile banking, many of those who prefer in-person banking have described feeling “frustrated”, “confused” and “worried”.
With banks closing, people are exploring their alternatives, and some have turned to credit unions – financial co-operatives offering savings, loans and a range of services, while being controlled by the members.
This was the case for Morag, whose name has been changed, who lives in Kilwinning, Scotland, and who has health and mobility problems, meaning she is unable to work.
As a result, she receives benefits which are vital to her day-to-day living costs.
Morag, 64, previously used RBS for her banking, but when her local branch closed four years ago she was left at a loss, as this was the only bank left in town.
Morag explained she was “upset” when they closed her local RBS branch, stating she believed the provider wasn’t thinking of those who lived there, people with mobility issues, or the elderly.
She told Express.co.uk : “They haven’t given thought to people who can’t travel to another town, or the costs involved in that journey.”
The 64-year-old said the matter has been made worse by the fact the Post Office in town has also closed.
A NatWest Group spokesperson said: “As with many industries, most of our customers are shifting to mobile and online banking, because it’s faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives. We understand and recognise that digital solutions aren’t right for everyone or every situation, and that when we close branches we have to make sure that no one is left behind.
“We take our responsibility seriously to support the people who face challenges in moving online, so we are investing to provide them with support and alternatives that work for them.”
A Post Office spokesperson said: “Kilwinning Post Office regrettably closed when the store, where the branch was located, closed. There is a nearby Post Office, just over a mile away at Pennyburn where residents and businesses can do their banking.
“Post Office is also supporting Cash Access UK in the development and operation of the recently announced Banking Hub in Kilwinning, which will bring cash and banking services back into the core of the community.”
It means her daughter would have to drive her to Irvine or Hayocks to use their services, and Morag explained there aren’t any mobile Post Office vans either.
As a result, when her RBS branch closed, Morag decided to join 1st Alliance Credit Union, with her daughter driving her to their local branch in town.
The credit union helped her to open a new account and join as a member, assisting her in accessing the services she needs.
Morag explained she wanted to be able to visit her bank and not conduct her affairs online, but because it would be difficult for her to travel to the next town where a bank might be, she needed to look for alternatives.
Thankfully, Morag said using the credit union has been a positive experience, allowing her to conduct her affairs with ease.
She continued: “1st Alliance Community Bank has had to be like a bank and a post office for me. People can pay their bills at 1st Alliance, which is helpful for me and the locals.
Older pensioners fume as neighbours get £2,500 more state pension[LATEST]
Hundreds of thousands of pensioners miss out on payment worth £12,919[INSIGHT]
State pension ‘lifeline’ now available to hundreds of thousands[UPDATE]
“When you go into the branch, they make you feel like a person and you’re not treated like a number.
“The folk are so nice. They listen to you and advise you. If you are ever in need, they will help you.”
New data has shown credit union membership has swelled recently, with this option becoming increasingly popular. Membership rose by 60,863 to reach 1,980,964 at the end of 2022.
Politicians have also acknowledged credit unions could be used by increasing numbers of people in response to bank branch closures.
Alex Davies-Jones, the Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, suggested credit unions can “plug some of the gap” left behind by closing branches.
Jim Shannon, DUP MP, concurred, suggesting credit unions have increased in his constituency more recently after bank closures.
Carol McHarg, Chief Executive at 1st Alliance Community Bank, said: “We were saddened at the RBS decision to close in Kilwinning. However, as a Community Bank (Credit Union), we needed to prepare, we believed the time had come for us to find a way to support people to do transactional banking at a local level.
“We invested in a debit card to allow people to easily access their money whether that be via ATM, online, contactless or chip and pin methods, as well as developed an online app for their accounts. We already did bill payments and same day transfer of monies through secure website messaging, over the phone, or in the office, and were in receipt of all benefit types and salaries for existing members. We ran a campaign to highlight these services.
“Since the closure of RBS we have seen an increase in people using these services. We also work with One Banx, a kiosk which opened in the COOP, by encouraging people with bank accounts to deposit with them or ourselves as the Post Office closed their doors here too. We are delighted that LINK is opening a Banking Hub in Kilwinning.
“LINK is a network which connects the UK’s cash machines and provides consumers with universal access to their cash. They recently set up a Banking Hub scheme, which involve the setting up of ‘Hubs’ that provide basic banking services, including counter services, run by major banks and the Post office. Kilwinning is set to see their Banking Hub open soon.
“Since the closure of the bank and Post Office, the area has seen a significant decrease in footfall. We hope that through a combination of work, One Banx and LINK, we will see people coming back to the town.”
To become a member of a credit union, individuals are required to have a “common bond” with the other members, according to Government-backed website MoneyHelper.
For example, this could include living in the same area, working for the same employer, or belonging to the same church or trade union.
All credit unions will ask for proof of a person’s identity and address before an account can be opened with them.
Those in England, Wales or Scotland can find a credit union using the Association of British Credit Unions website.
For those in Northern Ireland, the best points of contact are the Irish Federation of Credit Unions or the Ulster Federation of Credit Unions.
Source: Read Full Article