Major Australian banks have shuttered thousands of ATMs and branches as Covid-19 pushes customers away from paper money.

The number of locations with cash access has plunged significantly across the country.

During the June 2020 quarter, 2150 ATMs were removed across the country, according to the data compiled by the Australian Payments Network.

This is said to be the biggest drop in machine numbers since the last decade.

Australia’s top four banks collectively shuttered 175 branches in one year.

ANZ closed 68 branches, CBA shuttered 44, Westpac 36, and NAB 27.

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In the case of ATMs, Westpac ripped 84 machines, ANZ removed 73 ATMs, and NAB removed 21.

CBA did not reveal the number of ATMs scrapped as well as the locations of branches it sealed.

The total number of ATMs in the country dropped to 25, 720.

In the June quarter, cash withdrawals fell by over $15m compared to the same quarter last year.

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), there were 31.4 million cash withdrawals in June, as against 46.8 million a year ago.

In June, $8.8bn was withdrawn compared to $10.9bn last year.

RBA head of payments policy Tony Richards said: “Most of the ATMs removed have been in metropolitan areas, particularly in locations like shopping malls where there are multiple ATMs close by.

“Overall the bank expects the long-term downward trend in the use of cash to continue.”

Australians have been minimising cash usage since 2012. Covid-19 has accelerated this trend, Australian Banking Association (ABA) CEO Anna Bligh said.

In the June quarter, EFTPOS terminals also declined by 22,000. Bank customers are also increasingly using online banking channels.

However, the National Seniors Australia (NSA) chief advocate Ian Henschke argued that about 2.5 million Australians still do not bank online.

He said: “Many of them are older Australians and taking away services from them is going to be extremely difficult for them.

“If you haven’t got a computer, you haven’t got a smartphone and you haven’t been involved in the credit card world cash is what you’ve got.”