Cash no longer king in Irish banking

Cantillon: AIB move changes the face of banking ahead of key review

Cash is king was the adage. Not any more, particularly after two years of Covid restrictions. This was confirmed by AIB’s decision earlier this week to pull cash services (including ATMs) from 70 of its branches across the State. Add that to the 22 that already have no cash services and more than half of AIB’s network will be cashless by the end of October.

“With digital usage soaring, the cost of providing cash services has become increasingly unsustainable,” the bank said in its statement announcing the changes. “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.”

This is a reference to the fact that AIB has an agreement with An Post whereby personal and business customers can lodge and withdraw cash subject to certain limits at 920 post offices around the State.

Another reason cited for the changes was to free up staff in branches to help AIB sign up Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland customers as the two foreign-owned institutions prepare to exit the Irish market. Hopefully they won’t be disappointed to discover there will be no cash services available from their new bank.


The AIB branches will remain open selling mortgages and other loans, and life and pension products.

The relief that AIB customers whose branches are not impacted by this move feel will surely be short-lived. The travel of direction is obvious, and it is ground well-trodden by Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB, too.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter so much given the digital transitions we’ve all made since the pandemic hit. More than a million Irish people have also reportedly signed up for fintech Revolut, which has no branch network here.

The timing of the announcement was interesting, coming just days after the Dáil broke for its summer recess. So there was no opportunity for opposition TDs to quiz or embarrass the Government on the issue. Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty, for example, described it as a “short-sighted” decision that “further erodes public confidence in the banking sector to put the interests of customers first”.

It also makes a mockery of the Department of Finance’s retail banking review, which is due in November.