Bank branches and ATMs vanish as customers avoid cash like the plague

The number of ATMs nationwide has fallen sharply over the past five years, with the APRA statistics revealing a 44 per cent fall from 13,814 to 7757 since June 2017.

The fall in the number of ATMs occurred at the same time as two major events: banks stopped charging customers fees for using ATMS and more customers felt comfortable transacting online.

Commonwealth Bank led the charge to stop charging fees for withdrawals made on the ATMs of rival banks in 2017 in a move that was quickly followed by the rest of the industry.

In doing so, ATMs became a cost centre rather than a profit centre, with APRA statistics revealing that 3803 ATMs, or one third of the entire network, have been powered down over the past two years.

Earlier this week, the Australian Banking Association released research showing more than 80 per cent of Australians preferred to check account balances, pay bills or transfer money online.

Data collected by the ABA showed that ATM withdrawals had fallen 20 per cent in the year to August 2021, after falling 16 per cent the year before.

ABA CEO Anna Bligh said the pandemic had accelerated trends in society and changed the way we live, with working from home now a permanent feature of the workforce

“We have steered away from using cash and as a result are seeing an increase in card and technology payments, and the existing trend of doing banking online instead of in a branch has only continued,” Ms Bligh said.

“As we have seen more people go away from using branches, it’s no surprise to see banks invest in areas where customers prefer to bank, such as in their online platforms and apps.”

Speaking about the closure of another ten branches from Westpac and NAB on Tuesday, Financial Sector Union national secretary Julia Angrisano said it was critical that banks supported branch staff and continue to play a part in the recovery.

“The latest round of branch closures is being blamed on Covid for the number of customers taking up online banking. However, as we emerge from lockdown it is up to large corporates like the banks to play a role in Australia’s economic recovery,” Ms Angrisano said.

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