Bank branch closures also affect major cities in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
less bank branches and ATM

In 10 years, more than half of the number of bank branches in Spain has disappeared. Not only do sparsely populated places in Spain suffer from this situation, but large cities such as Madrid and Barcelona are also seeing more and more branches and ATMs disappear from the city.

However, Spain is not alone in this. The number of bank branches is declining in many European countries. Data from the Banco de España shows that nearly 21,000 branches have closed in Spain in the past 10 years. In December 2011, Spain still had 40,103 bank branches, at the end of 2021 there were only 19,104. 

More than half of bank branches in Spain closed 

Across Spain, an average of 52.3% of the number of bank branches has been closed since 2011. In some regions, this percentage is higher to around 60% in Catalonia, Madrid, Valencia, and Andalucia. In the Catalan city of Tarragona, most bank branches (67.8%) have been closed in the last decade. 

Especially since the digitization of many Spanish banks, the banks are increasingly focusing on the villages and cities where many people live and where it is still cost-effective to remain open to customers. Many banks have also merged in recent years, resulting in the disappearance of more branches. 

This means that people are forced to drive further and further to arrange their banking and sometimes even to pay by debit card. In 1981, when Spain had 10 million fewer inhabitants, there was on average one bank branch for every 1,363 inhabitants in Spain. In 2021 the situation was very different with an average branch for 2,477 inhabitants. Catalonia, in particular, has lost a lot of money to bank branches in recent decades. 

Fewer ATMs in the streets of Spain too 

Not only are bank branches disappearing en masse from the Spanish streets, there are also fewer ATMs present. For example, there is not even one ATM in 4,115 Spanish municipalities. The number of ATMs decreased by almost 18% between 2008 and 2017. According to the latest data from the Banco de España, at the end of 2020, 1,000 people had access to an average of 1.5 ATMs. 

Although this trend mainly affected the less populated areas in Spain, more and more ATMs are disappearing from cities where many people live. For example, in Madrid, there are 64 municipalities without an ATM and in Barcelona people in 99 municipalities do not have access to cash in their own village. Cádiz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife are the only places in Spain where all municipalities have at least one bank branch or ATM. 

No improvement in Spain in the coming years 

Although the situation is getting worse, the Banco de España expects this trend of disappearing bank branches and ATMs to continue in the coming years. The Spanish bank bases this on the digitization steps that banks still want to make and the fact that banks want to organize their processes even more efficiently. 

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