Friday 26 January 2024
Bank branch closures are sweeping the nation, with a total of 5,579 shutting their doors since 2015, according to consumer group Which?.
With these closures, people are exploring their alternatives, and some have turned to credit unions. This was the case for Morag (name has been changed) who lives in Kilwinning, Scotland, and lives with health and mobility problems, meaning she is unable to work.
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.
As a result, Morag decided to join 1st Alliance Community Bank, with her daughter driving her to the 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 said: “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. 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.
Carol McHarg, Chief Executive at 1st Alliance Community Bank, said: “We were saddened at the RBS decision to close in Kilwinning. However, 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.”
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