Major high street banks must ensure customers have access to banking services if a local branch closes in new rules agreed today.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said high street lenders were "putting their reputations on the line" by agreeing to the new measures.
Free-to-use cash machines, mobile banking arrangements and Post Office branches are included among possible options for satisfactory alternatives.
The British Bankers' Association (BBA) agreed to the guidelines that banks must work with local communities ahead of any closures.
It comes after Mr Cable wrote to banks calling for clear procedures to ensure customers in rural and deprived areas do not lose out if the "last bank in town" closes.
Mr Cable described the agreement as a "major step forward".
"People are increasingly banking online, but it's not necessarily an option for everyone and we must ensure people are not left behind," he said.
However, critics argued that the measures do not go far enough as lenders can still shut branches without any penalties if suitable alternatives are not provided.
Mr Cable argued that the new agreement was "much more extensive" than current measures and said that the reputation of high street banks is now "on the line" as they have signed up to the agreement.
Banks have agreed to:
- Establish the impact of a branch closure before it takes place
- Find suitable alternative provision
- Put satisfactory alternative banking services in place before a branch is closed