In some parts of Australia people are travelling more than 500 kilometres to reach their nearest bank.
In the remote South Australian mining town of Coober Pedy the last bank in town closed in February.
Local Alexandra Phin said the town was reeling at the prospect of a five-hour drive for in-person banking facilities.
"I know people who had to travel to Port Augusta within the first 10 days of the bank closing," she said.
Port Augusta is 540kms from Coober Pedy.
Locals can conduct some banking through Australia Post's Bank@Post service.
"There's a limited amount of money that you can bank and take out.
"Their actual services are limited as well. You can't go there and talk to them about a home loan or anything."
Older Australians and migrants have been left exposed by the closures as they struggled to navigate digital banking and were particularly vulnerable to financial scams.
According to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) the number of bank branches in regional and remote Australia has fallen from around 2,500 to 1,900 in the four years to June 2021.
That is a 23 per cent decline.
The Reserve Bank of Australia found that the number of ATMs had also declined with the total number of active ATMs nationally down by around 20 per cent since 2016.
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A Senate inquiry into the impact of regional bank closures is under way after the Regional Banking Taskforce handed down a report in September 2022 that found regional communities suffered without access to in person banking services.
In Bendigo, residents were anxious at the proposed closure of Bendigo Bank agencies in favour of Bank@Post.
According to the Taskforce report, delivered in September last year, Australia Post's Bank@Post was a good alternative, but may be under-used in regional communities.
The Australian Banking Association says there are 3,540 Australia Post outlets offering banking services nationally.
Bendigo resident Elizabeth Jakowenko, 80, has been a Bendigo Bank customer for 25 years.
Ms Jakowenko said the community-focused approach of the bank had appealed to her.
"The reason we joined it was we liked the philosophy of regional and not the great big banks. We had dealt with big banks up until then," she said.
"They have served us very well, and they're honest, we have never had a problem with them ever.
"But if they suddenly say, well, we're not going to give a damn about those people out there in smaller communities, I'd probably be saying, I'll take my money elsewhere.
"That would upset us, and a lot of people."
"If they suddenly say, well, we're not going to give a damn about those people out there in smaller communities, I'd probably be saying, I'll take my money elsewhere."- Elizabeth Jakowenco, Bendigo resident
Customers are changing their banking patterns, with nine in 10 Australians now preferring to do everyday banking activities such as transferring money, paying bills and checking their account digitally.
Reflecting the decline in branch numbers, major banks reported that over-the-counter transactions declined by up to 68 per cent over the five years.
A Westpac group spokesperson said declining customer use of branches was driving closures.
"In these instances, we continue to support our customers by expanding access via Bank@Post, telephone, mobile and virtual banking. Services and customers in Coober Pedy have been transitioned to our Bank@Post service in the town," the spokesperson said.
"We recently signed a 10-year agreement to provide Bank@Post services and this year Westpac is investing $15 million into this partnership. Around 95 per cent of in-branch transactions can be done at Bank@Post."
Senior citizens have relied on cash and traditional banking practices.
Seniors Rights Victoria CEO Chris Potaris said older people faced a range of barriers to accessing online services.
"Many older people are digitally excluded, and either cannot or do not want to access services online, meaning they miss out on things others take for granted. Internet access issues in some regional areas only compound this impact, limiting their ability to bank online," he said.
"The risk is that the lack of access to banks could leave seniors vulnerable to scams associated with online banking, and the threat is only rising. The ACCC's Scamwatch reported that Australians over 65 have lost more money to phishing scams in 2022 than any other age groups - totalling over nine million in losses."
In the first three months of 2023, this age group has already lost over $2.8 million in phishing scams, according to Seniors Rights Victoria.
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The Australian Banking Association say elder financial abuse was a serious and far-reaching problem. Banks provided a wide range of services to their customers like deceased estates, domestic violence assistance and the issuing of bank cheques that can't be handled at the post office.
"Worryingly, one of the key ways that older people can limit the risk of financial abuse is to be taken to a post office, bank, or ATM by a trusted person to withdraw physical cash," Mr Potaris said.
"The closure of regional banks limits access to a crucial resource for those facing the risk of financial elder abuse."
In submissions to the Regional Banking Taskforce, farmers and small businesses noted that the transition away from banking, created challenges for rural businesses. The taskforce heard several accounts of how branch closures had led to the loss of rural bank managers who worked with rural businesses in distress.
Submissions also detailed examples of emergency situations when access to cash was crucial especially when internet access was compromised.
Branch closures also heightened security risks in regional areas because of cash being held for longer and created added costs to visit branches to withdraw or deposit cash.
As a result of the inquiry, the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and Westpac have announced a pause on some branch closures until the inquiry finishes in December.
"With 39 per cent of CBA branches based in regional Australia to support the 28 per cent of Australians who live outside capital cities, our regional branches play an important role for our customers now and into the future, as we continue to maintain the largest bank branch network in Australia," a Commonwealth Bank spokesperson said.
"We've expanded our community banker pilot in regional Australia Post outlets to help customers transition to Bank@Post."
NAB said it would not pause its branch closure program
with five branches announced for closure and more closures likely.
According to financial services provider KPMG major Australian banks increased their cash profit after tax by 6.5 per cent in 2022 to $28.5 billion.
CORRECTION: The article has been updated to reflect the proposed closure of Bendigo Bank agencies and not bank branches, as originally published.
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