And some of these villages are within striking distance of major cities – as long as inhabitants have access to a car.
The village of Canencia in the Greater Madrid region is home to fewer than 500 people, but its ageing population says it feels lost without a local branch where they can withdraw cash, pay bills and ask for advice.
Their nearest bank is 20 kilometres away, in the larger village of Buitrago de Lozoya.
Most of these villages have at least one cashpoint, but some of the very elderly are ‘too scared’ to use them, ‘in case they swallow their cards’, or ‘don’t understand them’, especially if they are from a generation which left school long before their teens and can barely read or write.
Also, in Canencia and some other villages, very few local shops, bars or cafés accept card payments – even though, by law, any single transaction of €30 or more must include this option.
Younger villagers say that, although most believe in the age of internet banking, direct debits, contactless and email or phone contact, high-street banks are unnecessary, an entire generation still pays its bills in cash over the counter at the bank and does not trust any other method.
And these generations are more likely to be found in remote, rural areas since younger adults tend to leave these behind to live in larger villages or towns in order to have easy access to schools, jobs and health centres.
Many of the very elderly worry that if the mobile bank – which pops by for three hours every two to four weeks in about 800 villages – does not arrive in time, they will not be able to pay their bills on time and their electricity, water or telephone will be cut off.
Traders say they often have problems with insufficient loose change on the premises, and the mobile banks only allow customers to draw out a maximum of €500 at a time.
According to the Valencian Institute of Financial Research (IVIE), the number of bank branches in Spain as at last summer was about half that of before the recession – 27,320 compared with 45,662 – and that 52.2% of municipalities in the country had no branch of their own.
These municipalities are home to just over 1.35 million.
In the Greater Madrid region, 115 towns and villages had banks, and 64 did not, meaning nearly 47,000 residents had to travel some distance to their nearest branch.
Out of Castilla y León’s 2,248 towns and villages, a total of 1,810 – home to nearly 400,000 people – did not have a branch, whilst 471 villages, or 242,500 inhabitants, in Catalunya had no access to a bank.
In the Comunidad Valenciana along the east coast, 248 out of just over 500 municipalities had no high-street bank, meaning nearly 136,000 had to travel or were stuck completely if they were unable to do so, as are the 109,000 inhabitants of 179 villages in Andalucía.
Practically all ‘bank-less’ villages have at least one cashpoint and sufficient internet service to allow online banking and credit or debit card payments, although IVIE’s figures show that many rural dwellers have not adapted to the loss of a physical branch.
Bank managers explain that closures were made based upon how many customers branches served, which dictated how economically-viable or otherwise they were, and also the distance between them.
Financial authorities believe the solution lies in educating older generations on how to use cashpoints and assuring them of their safety, encouraging direct-debit bill payment, and for more businesses to accept card payments.
Once a largely cash-oriented society, the number of businesses willing to accept cards for even the smallest payments has risen sharply in the last five years or so, with even some bars happy to let customers pay for a single coffee using a debit card.