The Covid-19 pandemic brought the concept of a cashless society closer to becoming a reality, as people ditched physical money in favour of contactless payments.
However, cold, hard cash still retains an important place in our society, with the elderly and those needing to tightly control their budgets especially reliant on it.
Indeed, the latter has become all the more important in the wake of the cost of living crisis, and its impact on everything from the price of petrol to the supermarket shop.
On Tuesday (6 September), it was announced 13 new banking hubs would be opened across the UK in a bid to improve access to cash.
It comes after several high street banks announced they would be closing their high street branches this month.
Which? research has found 736 bank branches closed in 2021, with more than 5,000 shutting their doors since 2015.
So where will the new bank hubs be - and how do they work?
Here’s what you need to know.
What are bank hubs?
Bank hubs are essentially standard bank branches.
However, they are operated by Post Office staff and cover most high street bank brands.
They are intended for communities whose access to cash has been restricted as a result of bank branch closures.
Banks say the closures are often because the communities are not big enough to sustain standalone branches.
A trial for the concept began in 2021, with the first hubs opening in Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire and Rochford, Essex.
According to the Banking Hub Company - the business operated by the banks that run the banking hubs - these initial locations have been visited 60,000 times by customers and have seen transactions worth £16 million take place.
The money for the concept comes from the following banks:
- Bank of Ireland
- Danske Bank
- HSBC UK
- Lloyds Banking Group
- Nationwide Building Society
- NatWest Group
- Santander UK
- TSB Bank
- Virgin Money
“Cash still matters hugely to millions of people across the UK and with the cost-of-living crisis biting, more and more people are turning to cash as a way of budgeting effectively,” said Natalie Ceeney, chair of the Cash Action Group.
“Banking Hubs are designed for towns which are too small to sustain multiple bank branches each only serving part of the community.
“The Hub network will expand significantly to meet the demand of communities across the UK.
“I would expect us to be supporting hundreds of communities within a few years.”
It comes as legislation to protect the right to use cash - the Financial Services and Markets Bill - is set to begin its journey through Parliament later in September.
What can you do at a bank hub?
Bank hubs can be used in the same way as a bank branch.
Customers of any bank can:
- take out and deposit cash
- make bill payments
- carry out regular banking transactions
- speak to staff from their bank for advice and support
The latter part of the service runs out of private spaces in the hub.
Each bank involved in the scheme will provide staff on a rotational basis, so trained specialists from different high street brands will be available for appointments on different days.
Where are the new bank hubs?
13 new bank hubs are opening across the UK.
Their locations have been determined by Link - the organisation that oversees the UK’s cash machine network.
Every time a bank or cash machine closes, Link makes an assessment of how simple it is to get to the closest place offering bank services, as well as the demographics and vulnerability of the community.
Alongside the two hubs that have already been opened, here is the location of another 9 that are already in the process of being set up:
- Acton (West London)
- Buckingham (Bucks)
- Brixham (Devon)
- Cottingham (East Yorkshire)
- Knaresborough (North Yorkshire)
- Looe (Cornwall)
- Syston (Leicestershire)
- Carnoustie (Angus)
- Welshpool (Powys)
Here is where the 13 newly announced banking hubs will be located:
- Axminster (Devon)
- Barton-upon-Humber (Lincolnshire)
- Lutterworth (Leicestershire)
- Royal Wootton Bassett (Wiltshire)
- Cheadle (Staffordshire)
- Belper (Derbyshire)
- Maryport (Cumbria)
- Hornsea (East Yorkshire)
- Brechin (Angus)
- Forres (Moray)
- Carluke (Lanarkshire)
- Kirkcudbright (Dumfries & Galloway)
- Kilkeel (County Down)
In addition to these new hubs, standalone deposit and banking services will be rolled out to libraries and community centres in the following locations: Swanley (Kent), Holywood (County Down), Shanklin (Isle of Wight), Dunmow (Essex), Faversham (Kent), Atherstone (Warwickshire), Billericay (Essex), Bourne (Lincolnshire), Holyhead (Anglesey), llfracombe (Devon), Swanage (Dorset) and Wallingford (Oxfordshire).
When will bank hubs open?
There is no set date for when the new banking hubs will open their doors to the public.
However, the Banking Hub Company said they would open their doors “within months”.
Issues with getting the hubs up and running include finding suitable sites and making them secure and accessible enough for customers to safely bank at them.