AN POST is set to be the big winner as some of the country's banks consider closing even more branches.
The post company is in talks with Permanent TSB over a move which could see it carry out bank branch functions.
It comes just months after Permanent announced the closure of 19 branches and it is thought the discussions could lead to an increase in the number of outlets to be shut down.
If a deal is struck, post offices will be carrying out services for three banks -- it already provides over-the-counter facilities for AIB and National Irish Bank, which was taken over by Danske Bank.
More than 1,100 post offices around the country can accept cheques, cash and credit card payments on behalf of both AIB and Danske.
AIB closed 44 branches last month and will shut down in excess of 20 more next year.
And Ulster Bank is expected to announce dozens of branch closures in 2013 as well.
In July, state-owned Permanent TSB announced Dublin and Cork were to lose four branches each, while three were to go in Tipperary by the end of this year.
The outlets to shut down in the capital were Lucan, Blanchardstown, Sutton and Henry St in the city centre.
It also said its branches at Northside Shopping Centre in Coolock and Tyrrelstown were to become self-service locations, meaning that they would have no staff.
AIB customers can now lodge cheques and deposits at An Post outlets as well as undertaking other banking services.
Up to 40pc of bank customers now carry out most of their transactions online -- and the figure is constantly rising.
Some post offices are open five-and-a-half days of the week, unlike banks which open Monday to Friday.
The Irish Postmasters' Union is lobbying for post offices to carry out more services including taking motor tax and household charge payments as well as hospital charges.
An Post handled some three million transactions for AIB last year.
The latest financial figures for Permanent TSB highlight the difficulties at the lender.
It reported in August that in the first six months of 2012, 13.2pc of its residential mortgages were more than 90 days in arrears.
That was an increase of almost 2pc on the second half of 2011.
When houses bought as an investment were included, the percentage of residential mortgage arrears rose to 14.1pc, also an increase on the second half of 2011.
Figures from the bank also showed a loss after tax of €566m for the first half of 2012.
The figure allowed a provision for bad debts of €437m, an increase of €92m on the same period last year and largely due to losses on commercial property mortgages.