A consumer group has called for credit union services to be offered through Post Offices to provide a long-term alternative to High Street banks, especially for people on low incomes.
Consumer Focus said one in three people would be interested in joining a credit union, but most did not think there was one nearby. The move would help plug a "credit gap" for low income consumers who turn to high interest, short-term loans, such as payday loans, as they cannot access affordable credit through banks, it was argued.
Andy Burrows of Consumer Focus said: "The Government has suggested that a million people on low incomes could benefit from greater access to banking and affordable credit."
He continued: "Credit unions would only be one part of this picture but our research shows Post Office access would really allow credit unions to deliver on their potential.
"Credit unions could never afford a branch network in their own right so tying up with Post Offices is a logical step. Marrying credit unions and Post Offices creates a situation where everybody wins.
"Credit unions would benefit from greater access and awareness, customers would get more convenience and alternatives to high street banking, and it would also give a shot in the arm for the Post Office network."
Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said: "Bringing credit unions and the Post Office together makes great business sense and would build on the strong trust of each institution. This new research reinforces the case for trusted banking services to be available in communities across the country.
"We think a Post Bank would meet these needs and be well placed to bring a comprehensive range of banking services to local businesses and customers in their communities.
"The Post Office network is an ideal retail outlet for banking services as the postmasters who run them are well trained business people with strong community ties.
"We believe that credit unions and a Post Bank could help to move vulnerable households away from dependence on loan sharks and payday loans which attract high interest, instead giving them access to regulated and trusted banking services. At the same time, such a link-up would secure jobs in the Post Office and help to maintain the country-wide Post Office network."