Banco de España wants an alternative to closed banks and ATMs

by Deborah Cater
Bank of Spain concerned over options for withdrawing cash in Spain.
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The Banco de España believes that for too many people in Spain withdrawing cash has become problematic. The bank wants an alternative so that access to cash no longer has to be a problem for anyone.

Spain’s central bank estimates this is the case for some 1.3 million inhabitants and calls their situation “vulnerable”. That equates to 3% of the Spanish population. As a result of ongoing digitization and budget cuts (including a number of major bank mergers), half the bank branches in Spain have closed since 2008.

Mobile bank branches and bank employees

According to the Spanish Bank, the stripped-down financial services cannot be completely replaced, but some alternative is necessary. For example, it suggests the possibility of mobile bank branches, financial representatives, using post office facilities or the possibility of withdrawing money in a store.

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In 2020, only 22,299 bank branches and 49,481 ATMs were available in Spain. This means at the end of last year there were 1.5 locations available per 1000 inhabitants. The main problem is this is an average, and in reality there are large areas in Spain where there is no longer a single bank or ATM. For many residents, the closest option is more than 5 kilometres away. For these areas, mobile bank branches or financial representatives could offer a solution.

Vulnerable position for withdrawing cash

Specifically, there are about 340,000 people in Spain who live in isolated areas and are therefore ‘very vulnerable’ (in relation to access to cash). That is about 0.7% of the Spanish population. For them, the distance to the nearest bank or ATM is on average 9.4 kilometres. 40% of them are over 60 years old and the average income is below the national average. In general, these people live in small villages with about 400 inhabitants. Most of these villages are located in the provinces of León, Salamanca and Zamora.

Another million Spanish inhabitants are in a situation of average vulnerability. For them there are 0.6 cash withdrawal points per 1000 inhabitants. The average distance to the nearest withdrawal point is three kilometres. The percentage of people over 60 is more than 35% here and the income is also below the national average. These are municipalities with about 1,700 inhabitants, mainly located in the provinces of Lugo, La Coruña and Orense.

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