Should I care that the last bank in Aldeburgh left town today?

At 12 O’clock today the last bank in Aldeburgh closed its doors – from discussions with the counter staff a physical presence in the Suffolk town spanning a 100 years or so has come to an end.

Aldeburgh is served well by a butcher (Salter & King), a baker (Two Magpies Bakery) and you can probably get a candlestick from MCT Electrical if you wanted one.

In the past the town has also be served well by the bankers but HSBC left town a while back to be replaced by an ice cream parlour and today Barclays have left town.

A planning application is in place to remove vestiges of Barclays and there are many rumours about what might become of the building – rumours of a national coffee shop chain abound. I’m pleased to see that staff are off to other branches in Leiston and Saxmundham rather than loosing their jobs.

Aldeburgh faces the double whammy of no ‘bricks and mortar’ banking and, perhaps, the added indignity of a national coffee chain taking over the building.

But, as a Barclays customer of 34 years this April do I, or should I, care about the last bank in town closing?

It is true that every time I pass the bank I have good memories from 18 years working for Barclays and a sense of pride from seeing the Current Account Switch Guarantee logo proudly displayed in the window (I was responsible for the UK’s current account switch service for almost 5 years).

But good memories and a sense of pride is not enough because, if I am honest, I don’t care if my bank, or even the last bank, in town closes.

Of course I need to be able to manage my money effortlessly, make payments easily and make sure people can pay money to me efficiently but do I really need a physical presence on the high street from a bank to do this?

For a number of years I’ve proved that online banking is not just an alternative to ‘bricks and mortar’ banking but a much better way of managing my money both as a consumer and a business.

Also, for the past 30 weeks I have been cashless. Making the most of ApplePay, contactless and Chip & Pin opportunities for my daily purchases and encouraging a consumer led move to an inclusive cashless society.

Barclays may have physically left town but I have not left Barclays. That said, digital ‘challenger’ banks have entered the market and I was an early adopter at Starling Bank.

Innovation and competition by both the established and new entrant banks is hotting up and just as Annie and Frank sang, banking in the UK will be a case of ‘Anything you can do (I can do better)’.

It just won’t be physically on the High Street.

In 2019 there is no need to physically visit a bank because digital banking and a cashless society is a reality.

If you currently relied on the Barclays branch in Aldeburgh (or indeed any other bank branch) why not try these options:

1: Bank online (or via a smartphone app)

90% of adults in the UK are recent users of the internet.

Check out your banks online or app based solution or try a new digital bank such as Starling Bank or Monzo.

2: Use the Post Office

If you can’t get online you can use one of the 11,500 UK Post Offices to transact with your bank.

Remember there are more Post Office branches than the total number of all bank branches in the UK (7,586 bank branches in November 2018 according to Which?).

There is a Post Office a couple of hundred yards or so along the High Street in Aldeburgh.

3: Go cashless

Be bold and go cashless using debit cards, contactless and AppePay – it is easier than you think and so convenient.

Follow my ‘cashless experiment’ on Twitter: @_mike_chambers_

4: Find your nearest independent ATM

If cash still is your thing then use an ATM at the supermarket or other independent location (there are 70,000 ATMs in the UK).

There is a ‘free to use’ ATM in the Aldeburgh Post Office available during their opening hours).

5: Get Cash Back

Shops often give cash back with purchases, Lloyds and Visa are trialing shops providing cash withdrawals without the need for a purchase.

The closure of Barclays has led Munchies on Aldeburgh’s High Street to offer cash back if they have sufficient cash in the till and they make a mean coffee.

6: Use alternative ways to pay in cheques

If you must pay in a cheque use the cheque imaging service on your banking app or pay the cheque in at the Post Office.

7: Use Direct Debit

Pay your reoccurring bills with Direct Debit.

Whatever some might say banking is alive and well in the high street its just gone digital and cashless!

8: Follow my cashless experiment

Follow me on Twitter at: @_mike_chambers_ and be part of an inclusive consumer led move to a cashless society.

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