Majority State owned AIB is to make 70 of its 170 bank branches cashless in a move set to raise major questions around social inclusion and security. It includes removing ATMs from inside branches.
The move will mean withdrawal of cash services from towns including Dingle, Abbeyfeale, Birr, Cahir, Gort and Youghal and Wicklow Town from as soon as September.
AIB said it is making the change as part of a €40m investment programme and as it deepens relationship with An Post.
AIB’s branch network is the largest of any bank and it said it will ensure a branch remains in 95pc of locations that Ulster Bank and KBC are leaving.
However the dramatic withdrawal of cash services is likely to cause significant concerns. Despite a shift to cashless payments among consumers and business the Central Bank says cash remains important for both economic functions and social inclusion.
“Cash provides payment and savings options for people with limited or no access to digital money, making it crucial for the inclusion of socially vulnerable citizens such as the elderly or lower-income groups,” according to the Central Bank.
Chairman of the Consumers Association Michael Kilcoyne said he fears the downgrading of the 70 branches would eventually see them closed.
“This move to stop taking cash and cheques at 70 branches is the first step on the road to closing those branches.
“When you keep reducing the services branches offer it becomes more economic to close them,” Mr Kilcoyne said.
Cash handling by banks is also important to small and medium sized business in particular with high cash usage who rely on depositing cash in banks for security.
AIB, headed by CEO Colin Hunt, says it is to repurpose the 70 affected branches to boost account-opening facilities for new customers, while withdrawing cash and cheque services in these branches due to declining demand.
“With digital usage soaring, the cost of providing cash services has become increasingly unsustainable. As a result, cash, ATM and cheque services will be removed from these branches but customers will continue to have efficient access to cash in their communities,” AIB said.
AIB customers can use cash and cheque services at 920 Post Offices.